Jordan swears in new government

Thursday, 27 October 2011 00:59 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AMMAN (Reuters): Jordan’s U.S.-backed King Abdullah swore in on Monday a reform-minded government charged with speeding up political liberalisation in response to domestic pressure for change after protests inspired by popular uprisings in the Arab world.

Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, a former international jurist at the Hague-based International Court of Justice, was appointed last week to replace conservative ex-general Marouf al-Bakhit, who had been widely criticised for inept handling of the domestic crisis.

Ex-central banker Umayya Toukan was appointed as finance minister in a move officials said aimed to allay investor concerns over soaring public spending that has threatened Jordan’s fiscal and monetary stability.

The new cabinet lineup also includes moderates, tribal politicians and technocrats to widen its national appeal.

Abdullah told Khasawneh last week that his cabinet’s mission was to accelerate reforms that the outgoing cabinet had been slow in pushing through.

Bakhit had also antagonised Jordanian protesters and the Islamist opposition though heavy-handed policing of peaceful pro-reform rallies. He was dismissed after mounting criticism by parliamentarians and senior officials of his performance.

The powerful Islamist opposition declined Khasawneh’s invitation to join the cabinet, although they gave his administration a cautious welcome and said they would back a reformist agenda.