Jordan's King Abdullah II has appointed a new prime minister – for the last time – until parliamentary elections take place. The king's appointee, announced in Amman on Wednesday, is Abdullah Ensour, a former lawmaker and deputy prime minister.
It's the last time, because under the Hashemite monarch's reform plan, the king will no longer be able to appoint the country's prime minister. His previous prime minister, Fayez Tarawneh, was appointed in April, replacing Awn Khasawneh, who lasted six months and upon his own appointment, vowed to continue "to support the Palestinian people in their quest to regain their rights and establish their independent state, and continue to safeguard the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Palestine." He made no reference at the time to his king's remarks that Israel's security must be ensured in any future agreements with the Palestinian Authority.
The Jordanian prime minister's position will henceforth be relegated to appointment by parliamentarians, in accordance with the king's political reform plan, once the parliament is elected into office either by the end of this calendar year, or sometime early in 2013. As in 2010, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood faction has said it will boycott the polls.
The Islamist movement held a rally in the capital last Friday that finally prompted the king to dissolve the parliament and call for early elections. Although the crowd appeared massive -- some 15,000 flooded the streets -- still, the movement had hoped to attract far more, at least 50,000, in its bid to force the king to create a constitutional monarchy; in essence, to give up most of the power associated with the throne.
"Obviously this demonstration represented no one but the Muslim Brotherhood," Information Minister and government spokesman Samih Maaytah told AFP. "If this was the best gathering they could come up with, then the Islamists should really consider taking part in elections and join parliament to seek reform there instead of on the streets."
The political reform plan established by Abdullah earlier this year came as a response to the Arab Spring uprisings that swept through every Arab nation in the region around him, and toppled regimes in at least four of them. Abdullah managed to escape the whirlwind largely unscathed, but he was legally mandated to replace his most recent prime minister, Fayez Tarawneh, when he dissolved the parliament. The lawmakers had only managed to make it halfway through their four-year terms, having been frequently dogged by Islamist protests calling for “reforms.”
With more than a hundred thousand Syrian refugees now sitting in Jordan's northern region, and more than 60 percent of the country's population comprised of disgruntled Palestinian Authority Arabs who serve as political proxies for various Arab factions and are still not allowed to become citizens, with citizens' rights, Jordan is at risk of becoming fertile ground for an uprising of its own.
In response, and to soothe his unsettled citizens, Abdullah has given up some of his powers and created an independent electoral commission to oversee the next elections. Voter registration, which ends on October 15, has been moderate with approximately one-third of the population – two million Jordanians – signing up to go to the polls so far.
But Abdullah has retained firm control over the country nevertheless. The king continues to head the military, and all three branches of government, and it is likely Abdullah will be the one to set foreign and security policy in the future as well.