Jordanians protest to demand 'regime reforms'

Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated on Friday in Amman to demand "regime reforms," a day after Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit rejected calls for a constitutional monarchy.

"The people want regime reform. Reform is a popular demand. We want a new electoral law," the protesters, including Islamists, trade unionists and leftists, chanted in the city centre after midday prayers.

Holding national flags, the demonstrators, estimated by Islamist leaders at 10,000 and by police at 5,000, carried banners reading: "We need bread and freedom," "Down with the bullying policy" and "Together let's dissolve parliament."

"We stick to our demands to have a modern electoral law, early elections, a new method of forming governments as well as more efforts to fight corruption," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu Baker told the crowds.

"We reject all attempts to kill or abort real political reforms, which should be implemented in line with a clear timeframe."

The demonstration, which the Islamists expected to attract 20,000, came a day after Bakhit won a close vote of confidence, telling MPs that a constitutional monarchy, which some groups have been demanding, would "unbalance Jordan's political system."

Nationalists and independent Islamists have formed a commission for what they call a "Constitutional Monarchy Initiative," saying "the solution for Jordan is to move to a constitutional monarchy under which the king does not rule."

Bakhit, which has promised "true" and "gradual" reforms, said on Thursday before the vote that the government "understands calls for constitutional amendments, and even readopting the 1952 constitution."

While the Islamist movement wants the prime minister to be elected rather than appointed by the monarch, leftists seek the scrapping of amendments to the 1952 constitution, which was promulgated by King Abdullah II's grandfather King Talal.

The document already has been amended 29 times, giving greater power to the monarch and weakening the legislature, experts say.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the country's Muslim Brotherhood, has said it will increase pressure on the government if its demands are not met.

"So far, the government has not done anything to meet people's demands," IAF chief Hamzah Mansur told AFP.
"As long as there are reasons to protest, the protests will continue."

Last month, King Abdullah II sacked the government of Samir Rifai and named Bakhit to head a government charged with introducing general reforms to face popular discontent and protests inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

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