Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced yesterday [Aug. 21] an extensive ministerial shuffle. Ministerial portfolios that were merged when the government was formed were separated, technocrats tasked with accelerating the pace of reform were granted more powers and the prime minister — who is in his 70s — is now permitted to remain in the seat of power for longer, contrary to customs. These amendments came right before the elections scheduled for the end of this month, which are being boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
A royal decree was issued in approval of this amendment, which is the first of its kind to be ratified during the two terms of Ensour. King Abdullah II has continuously praised Ensour, saying, “He was apt to manage [the affairs] of the country amid internal and regional turmoil.”
The new amendment, which increased the number of ministers to 30, has reinforced the role of experts who had been influential in former cabinets and are inclined toward the West and in favor of reform. The amendment stipulated the removal of five ministers and the assignment of 16 new ones, while 13 others remained in their positions. According to the amendment, two women made it to the government, namely Lama Muhammad Mamkegh as minister of culture and Lina Shabib as minister of transport. The amendment covered the ministries of religious endowment and Islamic affairs, energy, education, health and environment and culture.
Khaled al-Kalaldeh was assigned minister of parliamentary affairs. Kalaldeh is a leftist oppositionist and was among the fiercest opponents to the current electoral law. During the two years of the Arab Spring, he harshly criticized high-ranking officials in the state.
It seems that appointing Kalaldeh came as a result of his close ties with youth and tribal movements, in an attempt to launch official dialogues with these entities to come to an agreement over laws that regulate the elections and fight corruption, in addition to other laws that had been publicly demanded.
The most prominent two figures in the government remain Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh, who has close ties with the West and Hashemite royalties, and Interior Minister Gen. Hussein al-Majali, whose strict way of dealing with protests staged against the price increase implemented by the government has raised the ire of opposition members.
The amendment became pressing in Jordan after the successive cabinets faced political and economic roadblocks on the internal and external levels. King Abdullah assigned Ensour for the second time in March to implement a reform agenda before the parliamentary elections. Ensour has implemented a plan to alleviate social and economic problems in the kingdom.
Liberal and Islamist members of the opposition, however, have both accused the government of failing to improve the rule and bring about genuine reforms. The majority of the current parliaments have voted for Ensour, an economist who pursued his studies in the United States and France. Ensour hails from a family that has traditional ties with the royal family.
The new ministerial amendment reveals that the decision-maker, King Abdullah, is satisfied with the performance of the prime minister. The latter has succeeded, during the past months, in adopting tough economic measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund, challenging the public will. In return for implementing these measures, Jordan was awarded $2 billion.
Jordan is facing an economic recession after years of strong growth supported by an influx of foreign investments, including large amounts of money sent by Jordanians working in Gulf countries. The amendment may be seeking to confirm the stability of the Jordanian state in light of a complicated regional situation.
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