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Reform-seeking Jordan gets ‘conservative’ govt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Amman, (AFP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Wednesday swore in a cabinet tasked with pushing for reforms, but analysts said the new government was too “conservative” to deliver.

Led by Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh, the 30-strong team includes 20 newcomers, including one woman, Nadia Hashem, as state minister for women’s affairs.

Ghaleb Zubi, a former MP and cabinet member who hails from one of Jordan’s largest tribes in the north, was named as interior minister.

In the cabinet, which no longer features a youth and sports ministry, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh retains his portfolio, veteran journalist Samih Maaytah becomes information minister and economist Suleiman Hafez takes up the finance post.

Judeh has held the same position in four governments since 2008, while Maaytah was a Jordan Television political talk show host and columnist for several newspapers.

Hafez held the energy, telecommunications and finance posts in 2010, 1999 and 1998, respectively.

“It is paradoxical that a conservative government has come to lead and push for reform,” political analyst Oreib Rintawi told AFP.

The king appointed Tarawneh on Thursday after the resignation of Awn Khasawneh, 62, an International Court of Justice judge who formed his cabinet last October to become the third premier of 2011.

He asked Tarawneh to form a government for “a limited transitional period” to pave the way for polls before the end of 2012, accusing Khasawneh of being too slow, as Jordan “cannot afford any delay in achieving the needed reform.”

“The resignation of Khasawneh and the designation of Tarawneh… do not send reassuring messages about reform,” said Rintawi, who heads the Amman-based Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies.

“This does not help people believe that we are having a genuine reform process. I think Jordan will witness heated debate in the coming months between the government and opposition, mainly the Islamists, who got the message clearly.”

Tarawneh pledged his cabinet would be “a government of reforms that embodies your majesty’s vision to guarantee the holding of parliamentary elections.”

“The electoral law is the backbone of political reform. My government will work with MPs to produce a law that will meet the demands of all Jordanians and build the foundation for parliamentary governments,” he told the king in a letter, vowing to fight corruption.

Khasawneh came under sharp criticism for proposing in April an electoral law that has been seen as a blow to pro-reform movements, including the powerful opposition Islamists.

The long-awaited draft scraps a contested one-person-one-vote system and increases a quota for women MPs. But it has angered political parties for limiting the number of seats allocated to them.

Mohammad Masri, political analyst at the University of Jordan’s Centre for Strategic Studies, said the new line-up “does not give the impression that it is up to reforms.”

“I am not sure this government will be able to shoulder the responsibility and carry out ‘miracles’,” he told AFP.

“It is a conservative government. Most of the ministers are not known to have important political or ideological backgrounds in order to engage in dialogue.”

Masri told AFP last week that Tarawneh himself “does not have a convincing record to introduce the required reforms at this stage of ‘Jordanian spring’. He is not known as an open-minded politician.”

Jordan has seen persistent Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations almost every week since January 2011, demanding sweeping reforms and a tougher fight against corruption.