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Jordan’s new PM ‘will listen to protests’, say analysts

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Jordan’s new PM ‘will listen to protests’, say analysts

AMMAN`: Jordan’s new prime minister will be more responsive to the public mood than his predecessor, who quit on Monday, analysts have told Arab News.

King Abdullah accepted Hani Al-Mulki’s resignation after nearly a week of street protests against a draft tax law linked to an economic package from the International Monetary Fund.

Al-Mulki’s fate was sealed at a face-to-face meeting with the king at the Husseiniya palace on Sunday night, sources told Arab News. Local media reported that the education minister, Omar Al-Razzaz, has been asked to form a government.

The king praised Al-Mulki for his “bravery in taking difficult decisions that do not gain popularity,” and asked him to stay on in a caretaker role until the new government is formed.

Asma Khader, a former minister and a leading human rights lawyer, told Arab News she was confident that Al-Razzaz would be more responsive to the public.

“As Minister of Education he has shown seriousness in terms of listening to the people and sharing with them rather than dictating to them.”

Ali Al-Aboos, the head of Jordan’s professional unions, said a strike called for Wednesday would still take place unless there was a change in government policy. “We will only suspend the strike if the new government withdraws the income tax law.”

Government plans to raise taxes brought thousands of people on to the streets in Amman and other parts of Jordan since last week. Police chief Maj. Gen. Fadel Al-Hamoud said security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law in protests, and 42 security force members had been injured.

Public anger has grown over government policies since a steep general sales tax increase this year and the abolition of bread subsidies, both measures driven by the IMF.

Al-Razzaz is a Harvard-educated economist who served with the World Bank in both Washington and the region.

Officials said he had been an opponent of reforms that hurt the poor.

His appointment, if confirmed, nevertheless sends a positive message to foreign donors that Jordan will press ahead with reforms, though in a gradual way, they said.

“I believe they have time to amend the law, to withdraw the law and make a new one that is more of a middle ground between the public demands and what the government wants,” said Mufleh Aqel, a prominent Jordanian banker.

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