Cairo's shockwaves felt in Amman as king sacks government

In a sign of further shockwaves reverberating across the Arab world, King Abdullah II of Jordan sacked his government in a surprise move after three weeks of street protests calling for economic and political reform.

The king dismissed Samir Rifai, the unpopular prime minister, after just over a year in the post, appointing the ex-premier and former army general Marouf Bakhit, whom many Jordanians see as a conservative hardliner with little appetite for reform.

The move was unexpected, not least because street protests in Jordan have remained manageable and largely peaceful, with protesters refraining from openly challenging the king. But Arab leaders have been badly rattled by the mass protests in the region.

The move is being seen as an attempt to head off further trouble from angry Jordanians, in the wake of the more violent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt.

King Abdullah's decision to dissolve the government goes part of the way to meeting political demands of the opposition, which had called for the resignation of the cabinet, the right to elect the prime minister and an end to political appointments by the king. But it is unclear if it will be enough.

The palace said the new premier would be charged with carrying out "true political reforms, enhance Jordan's democratic drive and ensure safe and decent living for all Jordanians." But the claim was greeted with scepticism by opposition figures, who said the appointment did not signal genuine change. "This is not a step in the right direction and does not show any intent towards real political reforms or meeting the popular demands for people yearning for greater political freedoms," said Hamza Mansour, head of Jordan's Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

King Abdullah, a key ally of the US in the Middle East, had promised reform in the face of protests that provided the most serious challenge to his decade-long reign. Protesters had called for the resignation of Mr Rifai, a member of Jordan's wealthy business elite, amid grinding economic difficulties caused by high unemployment, soaring inflation and rampant corruption.

Jordan has raised food and fuel subsidies and civil servants' wages, but the measures have done little to mollify protesters. The palace confirmed the king had accepted Mr Rifai's resignation. While Mr Bakhit's appointment could bolster the king's position, analysts say the new premier has no track record of reform.

He was made premier to restore calm after the 2005 bombings in Amman that left 60 dead and is unpopular with the opposition for presiding over elections in 2007, seen as rigged.

"He carried out the worst parliamentary elections in Jordan in 2007," said Zaki Bani Rsheid, a leading member of the Islamic Action Front (IAF). "He is not the right person to run things at this current state and get Jordan out of crisis," he added.

"With the choice of Bakhit, it's obvious that reforms have not started yet. We are against Bakhit because our experience with him is not encouraging," added the leader of the IAF, Hamzah Mansur also said. "There is no reason to stop the protests now."

Before being installed as prime minister in 2005, Mr Bakhit served as the kingdom's national-security adviser and its ambassador to Israel.

He was also the head of a state committee that oversaw the implementation of the peace treaty that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994, and served as Jordan's ambassador to Turkey for three years.

He has a doctorate in political science and taught the subject at a university for army and police recruits in southern Jordan.

The IAF has said repeatedly it is not seeking to oust King Abdullah, who has the power to appoint governments, approve legislation and dissolve parliament.

Jordan has a high unemployment rate among its population of six million, the majority of whom are under 25, and is suffering from the rising food and fuel prices which have affected many of its neighbours.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015