Jordan’s king appoints new prime minister as protests rage

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Jordan’s king has appointed a new prime minister following days of mass protests over controversial plans to hike taxes.

Hani Mulki quit on Monday following a meeting with King Abdullah, amid widespread anger over his austerity programme.

Thousands have taken to the streets in the last week, the largest protests Jordan has experienced in years.

His replacement is Omar Razzaz, who served as education minister in the outgoing government and was formerly a World Bank Economist.

During his time as education minister, the Harvard alumni oversaw the overhaul of Jordan’s state education system.

Members of the Jordanian gendarmerie detain a protester  jordan's king appoints new prime minister as protests rage Jordan’s king appoints new prime minister as protests rage skynews jordan protests 4327029
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A protester is detained by police

State media quoted King Abdullah as saying that regional turmoil has caused Jordan’s economic woes and that “the problem does not lie in Jordan”.

The country’s government has imposed a series of economic measures in the last two years, including new laws to increase income taxes by at least 5% and corporation tax by between 20% and 40%.

The aim was to cut Jordan’s $37bn (£28bn) debt, with the government imposing austerity measures and abolishing bread subsidies.

Jordan’s king has the final say on all policy issues, and will presumably define the limits of any economic and political reforms that Mr Razzaz wants to implement.

In an appointment letter addressed to the new PM, King Abdullah called on the new government to carry out a wide-ranging review of the kingdom’s tax system and come up with a new tax bill.

He also expressed sympathy for ordinary Jordanians, who have long complained their taxes are not being spent properly. Critics claim the current tax plan unfairly hits the poor and the middle class.

Jordanian protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration jordan's king appoints new prime minister as protests rage Jordan’s king appoints new prime minister as protests rage skynews jordan protests 4327028
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Protesters shout slogans and raise the national flag during the demonstration

It remains to be seen whether the appointment of Mr Razzaz will quell the anger of Jordanians, who have taken to the streets to demonstrate against a system they view as corrupt and exclusionary, with benefits reserved for those at the very top of society.

The 56-year-old king called a crisis meeting on Saturday evening after a fourth night of protests, stressing that there must be a consensus on the changes that does not “burden people”.

The new prime minister has been opposed to free market reforms which impact the poor, although officials maintain that he will continue with the tough reforms to reduce the country’s public debt.

Charged protests broke out across Jordan over the measures, with about 3,000 people clashing with police and security personnel near the then-prime minister Mr Mulki’s office on Saturday night.

They waved Jordanian flags and signs reading “we will not kneel” – some appeared to be treated for injuries.

The UK, one of Jordan’s allies, has pledged £70m in aid in 2018-18 to support the country’s government.



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