Violent protests took place across Jordan last week following Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour’s announcement of a package of austerity measures, including the cancellation of state fuel subsidies. Protesters in Amman clashed with security forces and demonstrators in other parts of the country called for a full-scale revolution.
These events follow 20 months of largely peaceful protests in the country inspired by the unrest in North Africa. Various left-leaning factions, including the powerful Islamic Action Front of the Muslim Brotherhood, have led many of the demonstrations, first taking to the streets in January 2011 to protest against corruption, restriction of political expression and economic hardship. While protests in most parts of the country have to date not called for the fall of the Hashemite Monarchy, some commentators have speculated that this is, in fact, the ultimate aim of the Islamic Action Front in the wake of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt.
Following the fall of the regimes in Egypt and Libya, protesters in Jordan began demanding the right to elect the Prime Minister, at present an appointment made by the King. To appease popular unrest, in June 2011 King Abdullah dismissed the Cabinet and the Prime Minister and announced a series of subsidies for basic goods – the recent cancellation of which led to last week’s protests. While it was also announced that constitutional amendments would be made, no timetable for such developments was specified.
The Cabinet has been dismissed over 10 times during King Abdullah’s 12-year reign. In the wake of the Arab Spring, it remains to be seen how long public unrest can be kept in abeyance in what has, until recently, been one of the region’s most stable jurisdictions.