Jordan's pro-reform camp demands premier step down

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2011 10:16 AM
Jordan's pro-reform camp demands premier step down

Political opponents amplified their calls Friday for Jordan's new prime minister to resign and demanded to be brought into a unity government to usher in swift reforms to open up the kingdom's politics.

As unrest sweeps the Middle East, Jordanians have held protests every Friday for more than two months to demand a greater political voice and action to reduce swelling poverty and unemployment. The weekly demonstrations have largely been peaceful and have not reached the level of violence seen elsewhere in the region, but tempers are flaring.

"Enough is enough, our patience has run out," shouted political independent Sufian Tal, reflecting the views of many among the 2,000 Jordanians who took to the streets of their capital Friday.

The U.S.-allied King Abdullah II, who so far has not faced calls for his ouster, appointed the new prime minister on Feb. 9 and ordered him to implement some political changes, including a fairer election law. But protesters are also demanding that Abdullah give up the power to appoint the prime minister and the rest of the Cabinet.

Nearly a month after new Premier Marouf al-Bakhit was named, he has yet to deliver, insisting that before any reforms can be made he must first push the country's 34 political parties to consolidate into three main political groups that can contest parliamentary elections _ a tedious political reordering certain to take time.

The political opposition is now demanding that he be fired and that it be made part of a unity government that can get right to work on reforms.

Furhter tarnishing the protesters' image of al-Bakhit, they accuse him of rigging past elections during a previous term as prime minister from 2005-2007.

"Out, out al-Bakhit. We will not bow to you," chanted the protesters, who included former lawmakers, unionists and independents. Others were affiliated with leftists and the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's largest opposition group.

The heavily policed protest in downtown Amman also had a small counter demonstration of 100 Abdullah loyalists who chanted, "With our blood and souls, we sacrifice our lives for you, Abdullah."

No clashes were reported.

Speaking to the crowd, Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr noted that it took just 18 days for protesters in Egypt to oust their autocratic president and start on the path of political change.

"Why should we wait longer?" he said.

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Associated Press writer Dale Gavlak contributed to this report.