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On eve of protest, King Abdullah dissolves parliament

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 5, 2012 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Jordan's King Abdullah II addresses the U.N. General Assembly on September 25 in New York City.
Jordan's King Abdullah II addresses the U.N. General Assembly on September 25 in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • King Abdullah dissolves parliament Thursday; protests are expected in Amman Friday
  • Abdullah has fired four prime ministers and dissolved his government in previous months
  • Muslim Brotherhood dismisses the king's actions, saying 'real' reforms are needed

(CNN) -- On the eve of a protest expected in Amman Friday, Jordan's king has dissolved the country's parliament and called for early elections close to the new year.

This isn't the first time King Abdullah II has responded pre-emptively to a possible Arab Spring-inspired demonstration in the country. But it could foreshadow the seriousness of the rally, which is likely to echo the push for democratic reforms that have swept North Africa and the Middle East.

Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya ousted longtime leaders from power.

In nearly two years, King Abdullah has fired four prime ministers.

In February 2011, shortly before Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down following weeks of intense protest, Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed a new prime minister. The king ordered Marouf al-Bakhit to make "genuine political reform," the country's royal court reported.

The government, the king then promised, would "take practical steps, quick and concrete, to launch a process of genuine political reform" and "comprehensive development," according to a letter from the king to al-Bakhit. The government would act to strengthen democracy, the letter said.

New prime ministers were subsequently appointed in October of 2011 and May of 2012.

On Thursday, government spokesman Samih al-Maitah framed the king's latest decision as a move he was planning as a part of his promised reforms.

"This was not a surprise decision," al-Maitah said.

Parliamentary elections will be held, at the latest, early next year and will be overseen by an independent commission, the spokesman added. The parliament was elected almost two years ago.

Several protests calling for change have been held in Jordan in the past year.

Thousands protest for political change in Jordan

The Muslim Brotherhood is organizing Friday's protest.

The religious and political group -- which was started in 1928 and counts Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsy, as a member -- believes Islam is not simply a religion but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states. The Brotherhood has repeatedly called for political reform in Jordan.

A Brotherhood representative told CNN that a large group is expected to gather Friday afternoon and march from the Hussein mosque to Palm Square downtown.

Loyalists to the king told reporters that, to keep the peace, they would not hold a counter-demonstration as originally planned.

"It's been expected to have the parliament dissolved by the king," said Nimer Assaf, the deputy general secretary of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood's political wing. "As far as we are concerned this is not the right step forward."

There should be democratic election law reform and "real" changes to Jordan's constitution, he said.

Parliament should have the right to dissolve itself, he said, and the prime minister should be elected by the public.

"Through that we can fight corruption, which is really high in Jordan," he said.

CNN's Kareem Khadder contributed to this report.

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