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King of Jordan sacks government, appoints new prime minister

King Abdullah of Jordan dismissed the government on Tuesday and replaced Prime Minister Samir Rifai with former general Marouf al-Bakhit. The move follows weeks of protests in major Jordanian cities.

Jordanian protesters

Jordanians protest food prices and poor living conditions

Former general Marouf al-Bakhit has been appointed the new prime minister of Jordan after King Abdullah fired incumbent Prime Minister Samir Rifai.

"Al-Bakhit's mission is to take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms," according to a palace statement.

The move follows three weeks of protests in the capital Amman and other Jordanian cities, with demonstrators complaining about high food prices and poor living conditions.

'Safe' choice

Jordanian King Abdullah greets new Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit in 2005

Al-Bakhit was prime minister before, from 2005-2007

"Bakhit…has been prime minister before. He's someone who would be seen as a safe pair of hands," Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East Policy at London's City University, told the Reuters news agency.

"I wouldn't see it as a sign of liberalization. With his previous premiership, he talked the talk, but little actually happened," she added.

Al-Bhakit served as prime minister from 2005 to 2007. His critics, among them Jordanian Islamists, accuse him of having rigged the 2007 elections.

"He carried out the worst parliamentary elections in Jordan in 2007. He is not the right person to run things at this current state and get Jordan out of crisis," But Zaki Bani Rsheid, a leader of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), told the AFP news agency.

Inspired by Egypt, Tunisia

Protesters have taken their cue from the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, where hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are calling for regime change.

The government of Samir Rifai recently pumped around 365 million euros into the economy to help improve living conditions in one of the Arab world's smallest economies.

He also announced higher wages for civil servants and the military, to calm outrage over high food prices. Many Jordanians are upset about their country's prolonged recession and rising public debt that hit a record 11 billion euros this year.

Author: Nicole Goebel (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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