Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Unrest spreads in Jordan

There have been unprecedented protests against the regime across the Hashemite Kingdom over recent weeks, writes Khetam Malkawi in Amman

Al-Ahram Weekly

Nationwide riots, vandalism, blocked roads and the chanting of unprecedented slogans calling for the downfall of the regime were some of the scenes witnessed in Jordan over the past week.
The unrest witnessed in the kingdom of 6.5 million people was the worst that has been seen not only since the start of the Arab Spring but also under King Abdallah II’s 13-year rule.
The country’s 12 governorates witnessed violent protests over the government’s decision to lift subsidies on petrol and fuel derivatives in order to address the country’s growing budget deficit.
Clashes between the protesters and the police left one fatality among the protesters and dozens of injuries on both sides and led to the arrest of more than 300 protesters.
Although the government has announced a plan to dispense cash payments to families with an annual income of less than JD10,000 ($14,000) to offset the hike in prices, this was an unsatisfactory measure for the majority of the public.
Justifying this decision, the incumbent prime minister, Abdallah Ensour, said that if the government had not lifted fuel subsidies, the alternative would have been a worse impact on the economy.
Ensour said the decision could not be delayed until after the parliamentary elections, the Jordanian News Agency, Petra, reported.
Although he was a fierce opponent of the former government of Fayez Tarawneh when the latter took the decision to raise fuel prices, Ensour’s statements as prime minister are the opposite of what he said two months ago when he was simply a member of the parliament.
“The decision should have been taken two years ago,” Ensour said, adding that the subsidies on various goods had contributed to increases in the country’s budget deficit, which now stood at JD2.5 billion.
According to figures Ensour presented, a cut in Egyptian gas supplies had caused the Jordanian National Electric Power Company to lose around JD1.7 billion, and the government was now subsidising oil derivatives at a cost of around JD800 million.
The nationwide rallies and violent demonstrations protesting against the decision broke out on 13 November, when Ensour announced the decision in an interview with Jordanian Television.
They continued until the following Friday after a call by the Muslim Brotherhood for the public to go out onto the streets to express their rejection of the decision.
Although calm was restored, the public anger was used by the Islamic Action Front (IAF) to renew its calls for what it described as the “reform of the regime” and an amendment to the 2012 elections law.
The IAF was the first Jordanian political party to announce a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for January 2013, which will use a one-person one-vote voting system.
After weeks of being away from the scene, the Islamists took advantage of last week’s turmoil to call for the amendment of the law and insist that they would continue to go out onto the streets until their demands were met.
“Our demands are clear, and we will not go back on them,” Ali Abu Sukkar, an IAF member, said in a roundtable discussion organised this week by the Al-Rai Centre for Strategic Studies in Jordan.
Abu Sukkar added that although the IAF had called for Friday’s demonstrations, it was not calling for the downfall of the regime.
“We only ask for the reform of the regime,” Abu Sukkar stressed.
At a press conference also held this week, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood called for a national conference to tackle the country’s political and economic crisis, in addition to the formation of a national salvation government.
“We have never asked for the change of the regime,” Hamza Mansour, IAF secretary-general, said during the press conference. However, he added that the government should address the current crisis in the streets, as the demands of the public were rising ever higher.
Jordan’s Islamists have insisted that they have played little role in the nationwide demonstrations, adding that some of their offices have even been targeted by rioters.
Holding the country’s parliamentary elections as planned in January 2013 would be a wrong decision and should be revisited, said political analyst Mohamed Abu Rumman.
“Holding the elections in accordance with the current law will increase the crisis in the country,” Abu Rumman said at the roundtable discussion.
Mustafa Rawashdeh, president of the Jordanian Teachers Association, which has announced an open-ended strike in response to the decision to lift the subsidies, echoed Abu Rumman’s opinion.
According to Rawashdeh, the government should address economic concerns and fight corruption before calling an election.
Jawad Anani, president of Jordan’s Economic and Social Council, said that there should be a national dialogue to come up with a solution to the kingdom’s economic and political crisis, “even if we have to postpone the elections” to do so.
The upcoming few weeks will reveal if the elections slated for January 23, 2013, will be held as scheduled, or whether they will be postponed based on the Islamists’ and political analysts’ demands.

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