Thousands of Jordanians march to press for reform

Jordanians demonstrated peacefully in Amman and other cities after weekly prayers to press for political and economic reform.

Last Updated: Jan 28, 2011, 20:37 PM IST

Amman: Thousands of Jordanians
demonstrated peacefully in Amman and other cities after weekly
prayers on Friday to press for political and economic reform, and
demanding that the government resign.

"Egypt, the Arab nation salutes you. We urge your
men to get rid of (President Hosni) Mubarak," an estimated
3,000 people chanted as they marched in Amman city centre
holding national flags.

"The Arab people`s message: you are corrupt, beware
our anger. (Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali
is waiting for you," they said.

Police said around 2,000 people staged protests in
other cities, answering a call by the powerful Muslim
Brotherhood which is insisting on forcing political and
economic reform in the kingdom.

"Together let`s make political and economic
change", "no alternative to political reform," and "down with
the Samir Rifai government. We want a national salvation
government," read some banners, referring to Jordan`s premier.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Hammam Said demanded an
elected government.

"Jordanians should elect their government. Why
should they be deprived from electing a government that would
feel with and represent them... a government that would make
us feel safe?" he told the crowds.

The Islamists have called for constitutional
amendments to curb the king`s power in naming government
heads, arguing that the premiership should go to the leader of
the majority in parliament.

The Jordanian constitution, adopted in 1952, gives
the king the exclusive prerogative to appoint and dismiss the
prime minister.

King Abdullah II held meetings this week with
senior officials, MPs, senators and others as part of his
efforts to "come closer to the demands of the people," urging
them to speed up political and socio-economic reforms.

"It`s time for change. People can no longer accept
corruption. We do not want a government of aristocrats,
merchants and the rich," Said told the demonstrators.

The government has announced it was pumping around
USD 500 million into the economy in a bid to help living
conditions, but protests have been staged in Amman and other
cities over the past two weeks against high prices and
economic policy.

"We are protesting today to demand genuine reforms
that would boost the people`s participation in deciding their
future," said Abdelhadi Falahat, head of the trade unions`
council.

The Islamists and the country`s 14 trade unions,
which group more than 200,000 members, say the government`s
new measures are inadequate as poverty levels are running at
25 per cent in the desert kingdom.

PTI