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Jordan's government tumbles in wake of Egypt unrest

Yet another government fell Tuesday to the rumblings of revolution that are sweeping the Middle East, as Jordan's King Abdullah II dismissed the country's prime minister and Cabinet after weeks of protests.

The surprise move appeared aimed at pre-empting the types of massive protests that are under way in Egypt and Tunisia and are being planned in other Arab countries, including Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Algeria.

However, King Abdullah's choice of Marouf al-Bakhit, 64, a former army general and former prime minister, to replace Samir Rifai, a wealthy businessman and former court adviser, failed to impress a coalition of political forces behind nationwide protests that have been running weekly since the end of last year.

Changing cabinets is not new for Abdullah. In his 12 years on the throne, he has done so eight times. But this was the first time that he had done so in reaction to public pressure. Al-Bakhit has served before as prime minister and is a former general and a onetime ambassador to Israel and Turkey widely viewed as clean of corruption. The palace statement said he would have the task of "taking practical, swift and tangible steps to launch a real political reform process, in line with the king's version of comprehensive reform, modernization and development."

Demonstrators have called for the protests to continue until the new government takes office and institutes concrete changes.

The demonstrations in Jordan have focused on a better quality of life for average citizens. Protest organizers say the main issues are poverty, price increases and endemic corruption. Demonstrators from the Islamist movements also have called for constitutional amendments to curb the king's power. The constitution gives the king sweeping powers to appoint and dismiss prime ministers and to dissolve the parliament.

Jordan attempted to placate the protesters by distributing water and candy at demonstrations and announcing a wage increase for civil servants and military personnel.

"The move by the king was clearly part of what is going on across the Middle East. This is not a liberal reform kind of area. Reform usually takes years to achieve, and here we are seeing it spread like wildfire," said professor Assaf David, an expert on Jordanian affairs at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Jordan's government tumbles in wake of Egypt unrest 02/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 11:18pm]
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