Jordan gets new government, worries remain

Jordan gets new government, worries remain

 CAIRO: Despite the formation of a new Jordanian government on Monday, analysts and Islamists worry that the status quo will remain. Jordan’s King Abdallah issued a decree on Monday that approved the formation of a new 29-member government after Nader Dahabi resigned from his post as Prime Minister last Wednesday amidst anger and frustration from the opposition, and a growing unpopularity rating.

He assigned the new government to supervise “transparent and fair” elections within the next year. The downfall of Dahabi was largely due to the perceived, and real, corruption charges leveled at the government, especially from the Islamic opposition.

“We believe what the King says,” began Mohamed Ghanem, a member of the opposition Islamic Action Front (IAF) party that has been pressuring the King to change the way politics in the country are run. He told Bikya Masr via telephone that despite his worries over the recent past, “we will wait and see if the King comes through on his promises of a better country where democracy can flourish.”

43-year-old Samer Rifai takes over as Prime Minister. He has a long family history of politics. His father, Zeid Rifai, resigned on Sunday as speaker of the upper house of Parliament in compliance with the separation of powers principle set forth in the Jordanian Constitution. The new Prime Minister is a graduate of Harvard and Cambridge Universities.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, is one of 10 ministers from the outgoing government who retained their positions in the new cabinet. The prime minister will have two deputies, Rajai Muasher, a prominent banker, who also doubles as minister of state for economic affairs, and Nayef Qadi, interior minister in the previous government who will also retain the same spot in the new cabinet.

Mohammad Abu Hammour was appointed finance minister, which he held two years ago. Jaafar Hassan, who joins the cabinet for the first time, was appointed minister of planning and international cooperation, succeeding Suhair al-Ali. Nabil Sharif retained his post as Minister of State for Information Affairs and Communication and the government’s official spokesman.

“The forthcoming elections should represent a qualitative transition in Jordan’s democratic march and presents the kingdom as a model in transparency, fairness and impartiality,” the monarch said in his memo.

At stake is a budget deficit that has reached an unprecedented level of more than $1.6 billion in fiscal 2009. The King usually chooses prime ministers from people with distinguished records in public life as Jordan does not have organized political parties that can run elections and obtain majorities in parliament or form coalition governments.

The country’s largest and sole organized political party, the IAF, had only six deputies in the outgoing 110-member lower house of parliament.