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No Islamists in new government: Jordan's PM

Islamists will be excluded from cabinet negotiations because of their position on parliament

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 Mar 2013
Abdullah Ensour
Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour (Photo: Reuters)
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Jordan's Prime Minister, Abdullah Ensour, has said that he will not ask the Islamist Action Front to join the new government as they don't "recognise the legitimacy" of the new-parliament.

"The government respects and appreciates the Islamist movement, but its position towards the parliament will prevent their inclusion within the cabinet," Ensour said in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Saturday.

Ensour pointed out that political talks with parliamentary blocs are still ongoing in order to find a compromise with the demands of those MPs expected to work with the government, adding that he is currently in the phase of negotiating with independent members.  

King Abdullah reappointed Ensour as prime minister last week after canvassing members of the new parliament elected in January.

The monarch's consultations with the new parliament follow constitutional changes that devolved some his powers to the assembly. This reform was inspired by recent uprisings in the Arab world.

King Abdullah previously hand-picked his prime ministers without consulting parliament. Ensour, an economist educated in the United States and France, who is not tainted with corruption allegations, was nominated by the majority of parliamentarians.

Reform-minded Ensour will hold consultations with parliamentary blocs in the 150-member assembly about the make-up of his new cabinet. Such open dialogue is in contrast to previous government formations in which parliament had no role.

In the meantime, his existing cabinet will continue as a caretaker government.

The recent protests erupted due to a crisis-hit economy that has been strained by a flood of refugees from the two-year old civil war in its northern neighbour Syria. The kingdom hosts more than 350,000 Syrian refugees, around five percent of its own population, putting pressure on water and electricity resources.

In November, Ensour took the unpopular decision to raise fuel prices, sparking several days of civil unrest, mainly across rural and tribal areas.

He argued that a shift from broad subsidies towards targeted cash transfers to the poor would provide more effective support and was the only option to deal with a financial crisis that drove the country's deficit to over 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Independent politicians have praised Ensour's willingness to take bold measures in the face of popular resistance, which have secured Jordan a $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

In the meantime however, the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the parliamentary election over what it saw as an unfair electoral law favouring rural and tribal regions over the cities with their mostly Palestinian-origin population.

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