Rallies throng capital supporting Jordan's king

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2011 10:21 AM
Rallies throng capital supporting Jordan's king

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the capital Saturday to voice allegiance to King Abdullah II in the biggest show of support for the monarch since opposition protests began calling for him to give up some of his powers.

The 10,000 loyal subjects were nearly triple the size of the opposition protests , inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria.

In street protests in the last 10 weeks, Jordanian opposition have been demanding more jobs, reduced food prices, wider public say in politics and curbing the king's power, specifically to appoint prime ministers. Instead, they want to be able to elect their prime minister from a majority in parliament, the only elected body in Jordan's government.

Saturday's demonstrators were a mix of loyal Palestinian subjects and Bedouin tribesmen, who form the bedrock of support for the king. They also included 23 lawmakers and 3,000 children.

Standing in a rainstorm, they waved portraits of the king and chanted, "Our lives and souls we sacrifice for you, Abdullah."

They also criticized the Islamic Action Front, Jordan's largest opposition group.

One of the protesters, civil engineer Ghazi Neimat, 29, said the Islamist political party was "blackmailing the king because, with unrest sweeping across the Arab world, the Islamic Action Front thinks it can capitalize on its demands, like curbing the king's powers."

"The Islamic Action Front and all the opposition parties should go to hell," said businessman Rajeh Gharaybeh, 38. "The king and his Hashemite family have given us stability that no political party can give to Jordanians."

Islamic Action Front leader Zaki Bani Ersheid said the protest "harms the king's image because it was staged."

"I know that Jordanian intelligence have been asking civil servants to participate in this demonstration," he said. "And, when people voice allegiance to the king, it indicates that there is a problem of loyalty and they want to assure him there isn't."

Jordanian government officials were not immediately available for comment.