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Jordan’s PM Submits Resignation After Protests

Jordan’s new Prime Minister Hani Mulki speaks to the media after the swearing-in ceremony for Jordan’s new cabinet at the Royal Palace in Amman on June 1, 2016. (Getty)

Amman – Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki submitted his resignation to King Abdullah on Monday, an official source said, to soothe widespread anger over economic policies that have sparked the largest protests in several years and dozens of arrests.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the capital Amman and main provincial towns again on Sunday, extending days of protests that have shaken Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that has remained stable through years of turmoil in the region.

Police chief Major General Fadel al-Hamoud said security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law during the protests and 42 security force members had been injured, but protests remained under control.

“Rest assured, Jordan is a safe and secure country, and things are under control,” said Major General Hussein Hawatmeh, head of the Gendarmerie security department, appearing along with Hamoud at a news conference.

Public anger has grown over government policies since a steep general sales tax hike earlier this year and the abolition of bread subsidies, both measures driven by the International Monetary Fund.

Political sources earlier said Abdullah had summoned Mulki for an audience in the king’s palace.

In a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the Petra news agency, citing the speaker of parliament, said lawmakers were on course to ask the king’s permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn.

Mulki, a business-friendly politician, was appointed in May 2016 and given the responsibility of reviving a sluggish economy and business sentiment hit by regional turmoil. The tax increases have caused his popularity to plummet.

The protests, the biggest in Jordan in years, widened on Saturday after Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes, saying it was up to parliament to decide.

Demonstrators who converged near the Cabinet office said they would disband only if the government rescinded the tax bill it sent to parliament last month.

STRIKE CALL

“The government has made us penniless … they have left us with no more money in our pockets,” chanted protesters.

Unions representing tens of thousands of employees in both the public and private sectors have also called for a general strike on Wednesday after their demands for the bill to be scrapped were rejected by the government.

The government says it needs more funds for public services and argues that the tax changes reduce social disparities by placing a heavier burden on high earners. Opponents say a tough IMF-imposed fiscal consolidation plan has worsened the plight of poorer Jordanians and squeezed the middle class.

Jordan’s economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign capital and aid flows have declined.

Protesters also criticise politicians for squandering public funds and corruption.

“Our demands are legitimate. No, no to corruption,” chanted the demonstrators urging King Abdullah, who is seen as a unifying force, to intervene and crack down on official graft.

(Reuters)

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