Feb 1 - King Abdullah of Jordan Tuesday replaced his prime minister after protests over food prices and poor living conditions, naming a former premier with a military background, Marouf Bakhit, to head the government.
“He (Bakhit) is a former general and briefly ambassador to Israel who has been prime minister before. He’s someone who would be seen as a safe pair of hands. I wouldn’t see it as a sign of liberalization. With his previous premiership, he talked the talk of reform but little actually happened.”
MAHA AZZAM, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
“I think all of these regimes are beginning to feel cornered. I would have thought in Jordan you will see some official statements about political reform but at the same time they will be acting to make sure the army is onside. I think it is inevitable that the protests will escalate. What is happening in Egypt is really lighting a fire across the whole region.”
“It has been a very positive step by His Majesty because in a way it’s a response to the demands of the people, who have stressed the necessity of changing the government...
“It’s the same virus that afflicted Tunisia, Egypt and is afflicting all Arab states ... Hopefully Dr Bakhit will be able to read the scene better than before and to plan for a change, politically and economically.”
“It’s useless. Full stop. What sort of a government is this? This is an ex-prime minister who rigged a previous election.
MUSTAFA HAMARNEH, ACADEMIC AND CHAIRMAN OF BOARD OF AL-SIJIL
“Bakhit is a very conservative politician. Under his watch we had easily the worst parliamentary and municipal elections (in 2007). I don’t think he is the kind of politician who will institute political change, the kind of change that the country needs badly now.”
SHEIKH HAMZA MANSOUR, HEAD OF JORDAN’S ISLAMIC ACTION FRONT:
“This is not a step in the right direction and does not show any intent toward real political reforms or meeting the popular demands for people yearning for greater political freedoms.”
“It’s surprising that Samir has been replaced as he was only appointed in 2009 with a directive effectively to institute reform. Bakhit was prime minister five years back, not long after the 2006 tourist attacks in Amman. Back then in the aftermath of those attacks he had a more stable, security-based agenda rather than reform. So it’s interesting that he is back.
“He was appointed in the past to crack down on the Islamists. Is it an indication that Abdullah is again looking at a retrenchment period? Bakhit is hardly someone you would class as a next generation reformer.”
MOHAMMAD AL MASRI, POLITICAL ANALYST AT JORDAN UNIVERSITY’S
“In a way it is a positive development because for three or four weeks the political demonstrations... have been calling for the dismissal of Rifai’s government. So it means the political system is not turning its back on the demands of the people.
“...this will encourage them to carry on with their second demand for dissolving the parliament and new elections.
“However it is well known that Marouf Bakhit was prime minister and in charge when the local and parliamentary elections of 2007 were held, and these elections were characterized by many international organizations ... as neither free nor fair.”
“This prime minister symbolizes everything that needs reform. He is the hero of vote rigging the 2007 elections and the hero of big corruption cases during his tenure as prime minister. It’s a message like in Egypt — where President Hosni Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman and Ahmad Shafiq — that there is no retreat from the status quo or desire for reforms.”
“It’s a response to the rallies and demonstrations and it’s a confidence building measure ... All these Arab governments are now aware that when things kick off on the streets, they need to react in some convincing manner. This is a new age for the Arab world, one where the street is more powerful than ever before.”
Compiled by World Desk, London