World News

Jordan king dissolves parliament, calls election

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan’s King Abdullah has dissolved parliament halfway through its four-year term and called for early elections, state television reported Monday.

The king issued a royal edict ordering the dissolution effective Tuesday of what is widely considered a rubber-stamp assembly composed of 110 lawmakers, mainly tribal loyalists, it said.

No reason was given for the king’s sudden decision, but the assembly had been accused of inept handling of legislation and there had been speculation it might be dissolved.

Constitutionally, most powers rest with the king, who appoints governments and approves legislation.

Liberal politicians say the move could herald a wider government shake-up to ward off popular disenchantment over

economic contraction after years of growth, and allegations of official graft.

Many politicians have accused Prime Minister Nader Dahabi’s government of mismanagement as it grappled with the impact of the global downturn on the aid-dependent economy and a rise in public debt to record levels.

King Abdullah had been counting on a new U.S. drive for Middle East peace, and the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian relations is casting a shadow on a country a majority of whose six million citizens are of Palestinian origin.

Many Jordanians fear their countrymen of Palestinian origin will settle permanently in the kingdom if they cannot return to the Palestinian territories, and are resisting their political empowerment in Jordan.

Parliament was elected in November 2007 under a controversial electoral law that reduced the representation of the largely Palestinian-dominated cities, which are Islamic strongholds, in favor of rural and Bedouin areas.

The Islamist influence in a parliament dominated by the local concerns of tribal candidates was also reduced in the fourth multi-party polls since the revival of parliamentary life after riots in 1989.

Successive governments have sidelined parliament and eroded the democratic gains made since 1989.

The government has four months to declare new elections but lawmakers say the constitution allows the king to delay them.

Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; editing by Tim Pearce