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Jordan PM resigns after anti-austerity protests

Members of the Jordanian gendarmerie and security forces stand on alert as protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman late on June 2, 2018
Khalil MAZRAAWI (AFP)
Jordan has seen prices of basic goods and services like bread, fuel, electricity steadily rise over past year

Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Mulki resigned on Monday after he was summoned by King Abdullah II over growing protests against his government's austerity measures, a government source said.

"Prime Minister Hani Mulki submitted his resignation to the king this afternoon during a meeting at the Husseiniyeh Palace and the king accepted the resignation," the source told AFP.

The king asked Education Minister Omar al-Razzaz to form a new government, the source added.

Jordan, a key US ally, has largely avoided the unrest witnessed by other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolts broke out in 2011, although protests did flare late that year after the government cut fuel subsidies.

A mostly desert kingdom with few resources, the country has seen prices of several basic goods and services like bread, fuel and electricity steadily rise over the past year.

Demonstrations have rocked the Jordanian capital and several other cities since Wednesday against a draft income tax law and price hikes based on recommendations by the International Monetary Fund.

Protesters have called on Prime Minister Hani Mulki to step down, vowing they will not "kneel" and earning support from trade unions as well as a majority of MPs opposed to the new taxation.

"King Abdullah has summoned the prime minister to a meeting before noon today Monday that could pave the way for his resignation," said the government source who declined to be identified.

It came hours after around 5,000 people rallied outside Mulki's office in Amman, on the fifth consecutive day of protests in the Jordanian capital and other cities.

"Oh Mulki listen well, the people of Jordan will not kneel," they chanted as they faced down a heavy security presence.

Fabrice COFFRINI (AFP/File)

Some demonstrators held up signs that read: "We will continue (to protest) until the government quits".

Security officials said Monday 60 people had been detained since the protests began.

According to reports by Jordan's Al Ghad newspaper and Roya TV, the prime minister is expected to resign.

Jordan, a mostly desert kingdom with few resources, has seen prices of several basic goods and services like bread, fuel and electricity steadily rise over the past year.

At dawn Monday, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah visited the protest site outside the prime minister's office and spoke to security forces who had deployed en masse to keep protesters at bay.

"They must be able to express themselves and voice their opinions and our duty is to protect them," the crown prince told security forces in reference to the protesters.

"We and they support the King. We want to protect this country," he added.

Khalil MAZRAAWI (AFP)

Last month the government proposed an income tax draft law, yet to be approved by parliament, aimed at increasing taxes on employees by at least 5 percent and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent.

It is the latest in a series of economic reforms and repeated price hikes on basic goods since Amman secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.

The Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this year ranked Jordan's capital as one of the most expensive in the Arab world.

Since January, Jordan -- which suffers high unemployment and has few natural resources -- has seen repeated price rises including on bread, as well as tax hikes on basic goods.

According to official estimates, 18.5 percent of Jordan's population is unemployed, while 20 percent is on the brink of poverty.

(Staff with AFP)

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