Analysis: too little, too late? What do Jordanians think of the cabinet shake up

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The newly appointed Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz (C) meets with member of Union leaders in Amman, on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah shakes hands with Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz during a swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet in Amman on Thursday. (Reuters )
Updated 15 June 2018

Analysis: too little, too late? What do Jordanians think of the cabinet shake up

  • Omar Al-Razzaz, a Harvard-educated economist, was named prime minister last week, succeeding Hani Mulki.
  • n the aftermath of the protests, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait pledged to extend a $2.5 billion aid package to Jordan. On Wednesday, Qatar pledged $500 million in cash and investments.

AMMAN: Jordanians who joined street protests that brought down the country’s government earlier this month have expressed disappointment at the make-up of the new Cabinet after it was sworn in yesterday.

King Abdullah appointed Omar Al-Razzaz, a Harvard-educated economist, as prime minister last week. Al-Razzaz succeeds Hani Mulki, who stepped down on June 4 after days of angry demonstrations against austerity measures, including a rise in income tax.

Mohammed Omar, a political activist who took part in the protests, said: “Of the 29 Cabinet members 23 have previously been ministers and 13 were members of the outgoing government.”

Omar said he was still hopeful of wider democratic reforms in Jordan. “I would still like to see a constitutional government created from a Parliament that is elected on the basis of a representative election law and (I would like to see) a reduction of the king’s powers.”

Thousands of Jordanians took part in protests across the country earlier this month to demand the sacking of the government and the abolition of a controversial bill that lowered the minimum taxable income to 8,000 Jordanian dinars ($11,000) for an individual and 16,000 dinars for a family.

The tax increases are a condition of a three-year economic program by the International Monetary Fund that aims to reduce public debt and boost state revenue.

Earlier this month the king intervened to halt a rise in fuel prices, which had also been part of the government’s austerity measures.

In the aftermath of the protests, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait pledged to extend a $2.5 billion aid package to Jordan. On Wednesday, Qatar pledged $500 million in cash and investments.

Both the foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, and the interior minister, Samir Al-Muabadeen, have kept their posts in the new Cabinet, which includes seven women. Rajai Muasher, one of Jordan’s wealthiest businessmen, was appointed deputy prime minister.

Jumana Ghneimat, the new minister for media affairs, told Arab News she understands protesters’ frustrations. 

“They have a right to evaluate us and our work, and our job is to listen to ensure that our government works and (meets) the hopes and aspirations of the entire country.”

In its first meeting, the new government had, as expected, approved a plan to withdraw the controversial income tax law, she said.

Ghneimat, who previously worked as editor-in-chief of the Al Ghad daily newspaper, said the government will be transparent and “communicate with the people.”

The protesters, however, may take some convincing. Rawan Joyoussi’s poster listing their demands became one of the iconic images of the demonstrations and she has mixed feelings about the new Cabinet.

“I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that,” she said. “But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”

Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

Updated 20 min 6 sec ago

Egypt urges decisive action against states backing ‘terror’

  • El-Sisi was apparently referring to Turkey and Qatar
  • Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula

CAIRO: Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.
The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.
Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.
The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the US, Britain and Canada.
The Sahel region is home to Al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked militants. El-Sisi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.
Egypt has for years been battling a Daesh-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Mursi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.
Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.
Since Mursi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.
El-Sisi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He did not elaborate.
He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”
El-Sisi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.
El-Sisi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.
Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.
Haftar has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital. He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.