AMMAN (AFP) – Jordan’s new premier started consultations on Wednesday to form his government charged with passing reforms and meeting the demands of popular protests, despite objections from the Islamist opposition.
“Maruf Bakhit will meet today and Thursday with Senate President Taher Masri and Lower House Speaker Faisal Fayez as well as heads of parliamentary blocs and committees,” a member of his entourage told AFP.
“He will also hold discussions with heads of all political parties,” mainly Islamist leaders as well as trade unions, the source added.
“The composition of the new government should be announced Saturday or Sunday if the consultations go well,” he said.
King Abdullah II on Tuesday named Bakhit, 64, a career soldier and former prime minister, after sacking the government of Samir Rifai, 43, following weeks of protests to demand political and economic reforms.
“Bakhit intends to examine all acts suspected of corruption, including the ones during his tenure between 2005 and 2007,” the source said.
The king ordered the new premier to “take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms,” but the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF) sharply criticised the monarch’s choice saying Bakhit is not a reformist.
“We urge Bakhit not to accept forming a new government and give the change to a national personality who is accepted by the public and who can carry out the needed reforms,” the IAF said in a statement on Tuesday.
Despite government measures to pump around 500 million dollars into the economy in a bid to help improve living conditions, protests have been held in Amman and other cities over the past three weeks to demand reforms.
Tunisia’s popular revolt, which ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has inspired dissidents across the Arab world.
In Egypt, demonstrators have been protesting for nine straight days against President Hosni Mubarak, wanting him to step down after three decades in power.