A majority of Jordanian deputies agreed to nominate current Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour to head the new government, after the Royal Court requested the deputies to name specific candidates instead of merely describe their characteristics and the next government’s priorities.
Jordanian King Abdullah II instructed his senior aides to consult with the deputies about who will be the next prime minister, even though the constitutional amendments approved in August 2011 had transferred some royal powers to parliament, which is no longer required to consult with the king before nominating the prime minister and the members of his cabinet.
The consultations revealed that Ensour, who previously served as deputy prime minister and a deputy for several terms “is the most likely [candidate] to become the next prime minister” unless there are “big surprises.” In the past, there have been last-minute reversals about candidates who were about to become prime minister, without the reasons for the reversals being clarified.
The deputies who spoke to Al-Hayat asserted that the Al-Watan bloc (the largest in parliament), which is composed of deputies from East Jordan and who are of Palestinian origin, and the Islamic Center bloc, which includes deputies close to the king and others who have split from the Muslim Brotherhood, have agreed to nominate Ensour for the premiership. This is expected to significantly improve his chances of becoming the next prime minister, especially after the blocs of Al-Wifaq (15 deputies) and Al-Ittihad al-Watani (10 deputies) had earlier declared their support for Ensour.
In a surprising development, Parliament Speaker Saad Hayel Srour implicitly joined the political front wary of nominating Ensour. The local media quoted Ensour acknowledging that there are some who “fear” his reappointment. Ensour was linked to the decisions that raised prices. Those fears may lead Jordanians to question the credibility of the new parliament.
Monday evening, four parliamentary blocs announced the formation of a parliamentary majority (made up of 85 out of 150 deputies) that would agree on who will be the next prime minister and the priorities of the upcoming phase.
The blocs of Al-Watan (28 deputies), the Democratic Gathering (24 deputies), Al-Waad al-Horr (18 deputies), and the Islamic Center (15 deputies) announced that they will be nominating the cabinet ministers. The coalition’s spokesman Khalid al-Bakkar said that “the coalition’s general council will meet today to vote on the candidates nominated by the four blocs, which represent the majority of parliament.” He added that the coalition “requests that the general assembly’s members abide by the majority’s decision, whatever the result.”
Yesterday [Feb. 26], the parliamentary consultations nominated Abdallah al-Khatib, the president of the independent commission, to supervise the elections. Khatib is a former minister and a renowned diplomat. He has close ties with domestic and international diplomatic circles. The parliamentary consultations also nominated the current Interior Minister Awad Khleifat, whose reign saw massive popular protests late last year against the government raising fuel prices, as well as riots in which a demonstrator and a police officer were killed and dozens were injured.
The Democratic Gathering bloc surprised political circles yesterday when it decided to nominate Khatib to be the next prime minister. He received ten votes in an internal bloc election, which included a selection of politically active journalists. Al-Waad al-Horr bloc, which includes some businessmen, nominated Khleifat.
The consultations inside the coalition give several scenarios on the formation of the new government. Some have called for a mixed government where some deputies become ministers, while others preferred that the prime minister select his own cabinet members until parliament amends its internal procedures in way that would strengthen the blocs and make them operate in an institutional manner.
The Royal Court’s Chief Fayez Tarawneh left the door open for further consultations with members of parliament to reach consensus regarding the next government. The day before yesterday, Tarawneh met 15 independent deputies at Basman Palace to reach a consensus in this regard. Some of those deputies requested that the next prime minister be selected from within parliament, while others refused to re-nominate the current prime minister and said that they will vote against any government he may head.
During the meeting, Tarawneh said, “We must consider the time factor during the consultation process. ... We are not at a political, sectarian and regional impasse that is preventing us from reaching consensus through the people’s representatives.”
Ensour submitted his resignation on Jan. 29, but the king directed him to continue his duties until a new government is formed.