Jordanian king ‘tunes in’ to popular grievances

Jordanian King Abdullah II has consulted representatives of different political views in Jordan, hoping "to come closer to the demands of the people," ahead of protests scheduled for Friday, a source in the monarch's circle told AFP on Sunday.

"The Jordanian sovereign held a series of consultations across the political spectrum, including former and incumbent high-ranking officials, activists, unionists and Islamists to hear the grievances of Jordanians and tune in with the street," the source said.

The member of the monarch's entourage said that the king had made "discrete visits to the Hashemite kingdom's poorest areas to assess their needs."

Despite the introduction of new social measures, several protests against high prices and the government's economic policy have taken place in the last two weeks, calling for change of the government.

About 5,000 Jordanians, according to police estimates, staged a peaceful protest last Friday in the capital, Amman, northeastern Zarka and northern Irbid.

Faced with popular discontent, the government adopted new economic measures earlier in January, including salary increases for state workers and $28 monthly pensions, the freezing or lowering of some prices, and job creation.

"We will pursue our movement until we obtain our demands," said Hamzeh Mansur secretary general of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the kingdom's main opposition party.

"The acute economic crisis and explosive social crisis are the results of a political crisis that needs immediate political reforms," he said. "

FAI demanded an "amendment to the constitution…allowing to limit the powers of the king."

"We demand that the leader of the parliamentary majority become de facto prime minister or that the chief executive be elected directly by the people," said Zaki ben Rsheid, executive member of the front.

The Jordanian constitution, adopted in 1952, gives the king the exclusive prerogatives of appointing and dismissing the prime minister.

According to a Jordanian official, the king "does not plan to dismiss his prime minister in the immediate future."

He added that the prime minister, who was re-appointed in November, "would remain in his post until March, the end of the parliamentary session."

The parliament is formed by a crushing majority of loyalists after Islamists boycotted legislative elections last November. The boycott was in protest at Jordan's electoral law, which they consider to their disadvantage.

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