In Brief

Jordan protests: what are they about?

King replaces prime minister in bid to diffuse anti-austerity demonstrations

The King of Jordan has sought to diffuse growing unrest in the country by replacing his prime minister following days of anti-austerity protests.

King Abdullah has asked former World Bank economist Omar al-Razzaz to form a new government after Hani Mulki resigned as prime minister following the country’s biggest demonstrations in years.

In Jordan, “the monarch has extensive powers and can appoint governments and approve legislation”, says the BBC.

What caused the protests?

Planned tax hikes and the abolition of bread subsidies have brought thousands of people out onto the streets over the past week, in a rare show of public defiance in a country that has remained relatively stable through years of regional turmoil.

Security forces have detained 60 people for breaking the law during the protests and 42 security force members had been injured, but police say protests remained under control.

Why are taxes rising?

Reuters says Jordan’s economy has “struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign capital and aid flows have declined”.

The government claims it needs more funds for public services but opponents says the tough IMF-imposed fiscal consolidation plan has worsened the plight of poorer Jordanians and squeezed the middle class.

What happens next?

A general strike has been called for Wednesday, but in a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the Petra news agency said lawmakers were planning to ask the king’s permission to hold an exceptional session in which a majority were expected to call on the changes be withdrawn.

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