New Prime Minister Appointed as Anti-government Protests Resume in Jordan

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Protesters gather for a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in Amman, Jordan, June 5, 2018
Protesters gather for a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in Amman, Jordan, June 5, 2018Credit: Raad Adayleh/AP

Jordan's King Abdullah appointed Omar al-Razzaz to form a new government, a palace statement said on Tuesday, after Hani al-Mulki resigned as prime minister in a bid to defuse major protests over price hikes. 

Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, served as education minister in the outgoing government.

Anti-government protests resumed in Jordan despite the resignation of the country's prime minister. Several thousand Jordanians marched toward the office of outgoing Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki overnight and into early Tuesday, demanding the government scrap proposed tax increases which critics say mostly target the poor and the middle class.

>>> Jordan's king at critical juncture as public unrest boils over into mass protests | Analysis >>>

Riot police scuffled with some of the marchers, trying to keep them away from the building, but the fifth street protest in as many days was largely peaceful.

Mulki resigned on Monday, as Jordan's King Abdullah II tried to get a handle on the biggest protests in the kingdom in several years.

The monarch, who has the ultimate say on policy decisions, promised change, but gave no specifics on possible reforms. Meanwhile, al-Mulki is to serve as caretaker.

Jordanian media, including the government-linked Al-Rai newspaper, widely reported Monday that the current education minister, Omar Razzaz, was tapped as al-Mulki's successor. Razzaz had previously held senior positions in the World Bank and is considered a reformer.

Still, there has been no official announcement, and it was not clear when and if Razzaz would be appointed.

Israel has been watching events in Jordan closely as the kingdom's stability is a supreme security interest from Israel's standpoint.

Protest organizers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms. It's not clear whether al-Mulki's eventual replacement would have such a mandate.

In the march, which started late Monday, some of the protesters chanted, "No to Mulki, No to Razzaz."

An umbrella organization for more than a dozen unions and professional organizations said it would go ahead with a planned one-day strike on Wednesday, while several other unions said they would suspend their protests to give the country a chance to solve its problems after the resignation of al-Mulki.

Jordan's government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to carry out economic reforms and austerity measures to rein in growing public debt.

The kingdom has experienced an economic downturn in part because of prolonged conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a large influx of refugees several years ago. The official unemployment rate has risen above 18 percent, and it's believed to be double that among young Jordanians.