Middle East

Jordan gets new cabinet ahead of polls

Abdullah Nsour waves to people at his home in Salt, Jordan, after Jordan's King Abdullah appointed him as prime minister on Wednesday Oct. 10, 2012. He is to prepare for the country's first post-Arab Spring parliamentary election, due early next year. (AP Photo / Raad Adayleh)

AMMAN: King Abdullah II on Thursday swore in a 21-strong cabinet a day after he named politician Abdullah Nsur to form a government to prepare for polls, but the opposition insisted on boycotting the vote.

The swearing in ceremony comes a week after the king dissolved parliament and called early elections, which he says he wants to be held by the end of the year although no date has been set for the polls.

Nsur, 73, an outspoken MP and senator who has held several key government portfolios in the 1980s and 1990s, is a vocal supporter of sweeping reforms and has repeatedly called for the need to uproot corruption in Jordan.

He formed his government only a day after the king appointed him to replace former premier Fayez Tarawneh, who quit in line with constitutional rules stipulating that the government must step down when parliament is dissolved.

Nsur's cabinet includes four newcomers, including Interior Minister Awad Khleifat, who also held that post in 2002, and Minister of Trade and Industry Hatem Halawani, who will likewise head the ministry of communications and information technology.

The other two new cabinet ministers are Nidal Qatamin who takes over the labour ministry and Bassam Haddadin who was appointed minister of political development and parliamentary affairs.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh retains his post for the fifth time in a row in the new line-up which does not include any women.

"The new team realises the importance of its transitional role to pave the way for parliamentary governments and help Jordanians become partners in decision making," Nsur told the king in a letter before the ceremony.

On Wednesday the king asked Nsur to form a new cabinet that must strive to ensure that all Jordanians take part in the legislative polls, after Islamists said they would boycott the election.

"The primary responsibility of this government in this transitional phase is to pave the way for a qualitative leap in Jordan's political history and democratisation," the king told Nsur in his letter of designation.

"Between now and election day, your government is expected to continue dialogue with all segments of society, political parties and political forces, to encourage them to effectively take part in the elections as candidates and voters," the king said in the letter.

Nsur's key challenge will be to persuade the powerful Islamist opposition to back down from their decision to boycott the polls.

He met with Islamists leaders and trade unionists on Thursday ahead of announcing his line-up, but the opposition said in a statement "there was nothing new in the meeting."

"We are not optimistic about the composition of the government. It gives us more reasons not take part in the upcoming elections," Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told AFP.

The opposition says the electoral process favours government loyalists at the expense of the Islamists, and has also demanded a parliamentary system in which the prime minister would be elected rather than appointed by the king.

"I do not think this cabinet is capable of tackling any important issue.

The challenges are bigger than the government," political analyst Labib Kamhawi told AFP.

"Nsur's government will try to encourage the opposition not to boycott the polls. But it will fail because it has nothing to give the opposition in order to make them change their position."

A date for the elections is to be announced by the newly established Independent Election Commission.





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