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Jordan's New PM Promises Reforms, Critics Skeptical

Jordan swears in a cabinet, led by Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and tasked with pushing for reforms.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/3/2012, 6:15 AM

Fayez Tarawneh
Fayez Tarawneh
Reuters

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Wednesday swore in a cabinet tasked with pushing for reforms, AFP reported.

The new cabinet is led by Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and includes 30 people, 20 of whom are newcomers. One woman, Nadia Hashem, was appointed state minister for women's affairs, the report said.

In the cabinet, which no longer features a youth and sports ministry, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh retains his portfolio, veteran journalist Samih Maaytah becomes information minister and economist Suleiman Hafez takes up the finance post.

Judeh has held the same position in four governments since 2008, while Maaytah was a Jordan Television political talk show host and columnist for several newspapers.

Hafez held the energy, telecommunications and finance posts in 2010, 1999 and 1998, respectively.

The king appointed Tarawneh last week, after the resignation of 62-year-old Awn Khasawneh, an International Court of Justice judge who formed his cabinet last October and resigned just six months later.

The king asked Tarawneh to form a government for “a limited transitional period” to pave the way for polls before the end of 2012. According to AFP, he accused Khasawneh of being too slow, as Jordan “cannot afford any delay in achieving the needed reform.”

Political analyst Oreib Rintawi, who heads the Amman-based Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, rejected the idea that the new cabinet will push for reforms.

“The resignation of Khasawneh and the designation of Tarawneh... do not send reassuring messages about reform,” he told AFP. “This does not help people believe that we are having a genuine reform process. I think Jordan will witness heated debate in the coming months between the government and opposition, mainly the Islamists, who got the message clearly.”

Tarawneh pledged his cabinet would be “a government of reforms that embodies your majesty's vision to guarantee the holding of parliamentary elections.”

He added, “The electoral law is the backbone of political reform. My government will work with MPs to produce a law that will meet the demands of all Jordanians and build the foundation for parliamentary governments.”

Jordanians have been demonstrating since January of last year, demanding sweeping political and economic reforms as well as an end to corruption, as part of the Arab Spring protests.

King Abdullah II has promised Jordanians some reforms, including a “future” government that will be elected instead of appointed by the king. The king appoints his cabinet ministers and can dissolve parliament, which is elected by the people. Those reforms have been slow in being implemented.