2011-03-26 #Jordan wants to choose the next new prime minister

The government of Jordan has announced it will “protect freedom of expression as long as it is carried out with responsibility and respect of the law.” as opposition parties, reformists and the March 24 Youth Movement (formerly the Jordanian Youth Movement) called for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of the Lower House and the leadership of the security forces after yesterday’s protests (below).

“Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by the Constitution for all citizens and the government and security agencies have been acting accordingly for the past 12 months,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Saad Hayel Srour said yesterday at a press conference. Srour reiterated that the violent clashes that erupted between a pro-government group and protesters was a “black mark” in the country’s freedom record. However, he stressed, “it will not stop the government from carrying on with its reform efforts and protecting public freedoms”.

The minister announced an investigation has been launched and 21 people arrested following yesterday’s violence which saw more than 150 – 160 people injured and one killed in protests. The minister today called for issues to be solved at the negotiating table, not in the streets and government officials at the press conference put the blame for the violence on the protesters. They announced the police had no intention of removing the protester tents set up.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and the March 24 Youth Movement held their own press conferences condemning the police action and holding the government fully responsible for the escalation. Professional associations in the same press conferences announced their withdrawal from the National Dialogue Committee and joined the March 24 movement. The March 24 Movement is refusing dialogue with the government unless the dialogue is formed under a Royal Decree and the agenda includes constitutional amendments to have an elected prime minister and more parliamentary powers. They are also demanding that the Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit and his government resign and the Gendarmerie Forces be dismantled, along with the restructuring of all security services. They are looking for the formation of a national unity and reformist government that would win the people’s trust and protect their lives,” said Hamzah Mansur, chief of the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF). “Any government that kills citizens loses legitimacy,” he told a news conference.

Bakhit responded on television “We have invited the Muslim Brotherhood for talks, away from protests and demonstrations, but apparently they have an agenda to create chaos in the country. … We respect the opposition. We tried our best to contact the Islamist leaders on Thursday to avert sedition, but they preferred escalation.”

The son of the protester who died has vowed to not bury his father “We refuse to take his body from the morgue and we will not bury him unless we receive an official apology and the interior minister resigns,” Khairy Saad Jamil’s son, Nasser, 34, told AFP.

“We will not move from this hospital until his majesty the king comes here and sees who is to blame,” Jamil’s brother, Said Jamil, told CNN. “We want justice for our brother so his blood is not wasted in vain.” The autopsy said that Jamil died of a heart attack, and had no marks of beating, his family insists the heart attack was brought on by assault and are demanding an amended autopsy report.

Bakhit received his appointment on February 1. From WL Central’s coverage on February 1:King Abdullah II sacked his cabinet Tuesday after being confronted with the on going protests by thousands of Jordanians over high unemployment and high food prices. Jordan’s Royal Palace announced that the Monarchy had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, who many blame for rising fuel and food prices and poor economic performance. The King has asked ex-army general Marouf Bakhit to form a new government. Bakhit has been prime minister before and also has been an ambassador to Israel so while this change may be prompted by the demands of the people in the streets, it is not seen as any real change in the status quo.

CNN reports that their team in Amman on Friday witnessed some security forces beating up anti-government protesters and security was reported to have used water cannons on the protesters. There were also reports of police surrounding hospitals and arresting patients or those trying to enter.

Al Jazeera reported two people “killed after being beaten to death by riot police and pro-government loyalists”. AFP reported around 200 government supporters hurled large stones at more than 2,000 young demonstrators.

Meanwhile, thousands gathered in Al-Hussein Gardens west of Amman to express loyalty and allegiance to the king, dancing to national songs and waving large national flags and pictures of the monarch.

“Enough is enough,” al-Qaisi, an unemployed sociologist, said. “We don’t want the king to go, but we want him to listen to us; We’re fed up with al-Bakhit, with parliament and with Jordan being a police state ruled by the intelligence department.”

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