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Jordan's king appoints new PM to form new government

From Kareem Khadder, CNN
October 11, 2012 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Jordan's King Abdullah II (pictured) appointed a new prime minister Wednesday.
Jordan's King Abdullah II (pictured) appointed a new prime minister Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abdullah Ensour is Jordan's new prime minister
  • He must form a new government -- Jordan's fifth in two years
  • Protesters demand constitutional reforms, saying the king has too much power
  • Muslim Brotherhood: We hope this next government will go ahead with reforms

(CNN) -- Less than a week after dissolving the parliament, Jordan's King Abdullah II appointed a new prime minister Wednesday as the country deals with demands for political reform.

Abdullah Ensour, the new prime minister, is tasked with forming a new government -- Jordan's fifth in two years. He was appointed after King Abdullah accepted the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh, the country's royal court said.

Last week, thousands of peaceful protesters gathered in Amman to call for constitutional reforms, saying the king has too much power. They demanded that representatives be able to run for election in a democratic system rather than be under his control.

King Abdullah has also called for early elections, close to the new year.

There is no clear deadline for establishing a new government, former parliamentarian Khaled Kalaldeh said. But he said it's in the prime minister's best interest to set up the new administration within 24 hours, due to a planned demonstration Friday by the opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jordanians demand reform
Massive street protests in Jordan
Jordan's king addresses reform
Jordan's king on Arab Spring challenges

Many have said Jordan's economy is hurting, and too many people cannot afford the high cost of living and are burdened by high inflation. Unemployment numbers are too high, they said, and many young people are without work.

The complaints have been echoed for some time in the kingdom, and gained steam when the Arab Spring began to sweep North Africa and the Middle East in 2010 and 2011. Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have ousted longtime leaders from power.

In the past two years, King Abdullah has fired four prime ministers. In February 2011, shortly before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office following weeks of intense protest, the king dismissed his government and ordered "genuine political reform," the country's royal court reported.

But the king appears to be in a tough spot. Political reforms would mean taking power away from his base -- the Bedouin tribes, a group known as the East Bankers.

On top of that concern, King Abdullah is also dealing with more than 200,000 Syrian refugees who have entered Jordan recently.

Last Thursday, government spokesman Samih al-Maitah framed the king's decision to dissolve parliament as part of his promised reforms.

"This was not a surprise decision," al-Maitah said. He added that an independent commission to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections will ensure fairness.

But the dissolution of parliament didn't stop the mass protest on Friday, which was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The religious and political group 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.

On Wednesday, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing expressed hope for the new government.

"As far as we are concerned, we have no enmity toward any Jordanian person appointed by the king, especially for the appointment of the prime minister," said Nimer Assaf, deputy general secretary for the Islamic Action Front. "We do not look for names, we look for the deeds, and we hope that this next government will go ahead with reforms which the Jordanians have been asking for a very long time."

CNN's Sara Sidner and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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