Protesters Demonstrate Against Economic Measures Proposed In Jordan

Jun 4, 2018
Originally published on June 4, 2018 11:57 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

The prime minister of Jordan has resigned after a wave of antigovernment protests rolled across that country this weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

KING: That's the sound of demonstrators who are angry over austerity measures. That anger brought thousands of Jordanians to the streets. NPR's Jane Arraf has been at the demonstrations, and we spoke with her earlier.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So what would the prime minister's resignation mean for these protesters? Is he specifically the guy that they wanted out?

ARRAF: Yeah. In a way, he kind of is - not just him but the whole Cabinet. So this is an antigovernment protest in the sense that they're not calling for radical reorganization of anything. They're not calling for the king to step down. But they do blame the government for their economic problems. So I'm told by political sources that the prime minister did indeed tender his resignation this morning to the king. That's going to be announced later today.

And the new prime minister is expected to be the current education minister, Omar Razzaz, who has experience with the World Bank, for instance. Now, the question is whether this is going to change anything. And I was also speaking to the head of Jordan's Economic and Social Council, Mustafa Hamarneh. And he says really, to change things, you need a whole new outlook on how they're going to raise money and still allow people to get by.

KING: Right, because economic austerity measures are not just a thing that are imposed on people because a member of the government feels like it, right? What is Jordan suffering from? Why impose this austerity in the first place?

ARRAF: Gosh. Well, it's a poor country with not many resources. And it's always dependent on foreign aid. So right now, the U.S. is actually the biggest donor to Jordan. But in the past, it's received billions and billions of dollars from the Gulf, from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. So that's no longer coming in. And the government, to comply with an IMF bailout, has increased prices on everything from bread to gasoline. At the protests last night, I was talking to one protester. Hanadi Duwaiku (ph) is solidly middle class. But she tells us if she can't afford electricity, what does that mean for the poor?

HANADI DUWAIKU: This government is leading the country to total chaos. They provoke people. They provoke the nation. As you know, the country is in total poverty because of all the procedures recently have been taken.

ARRAF: So this was generally a peaceful protest. But in other parts of the country - and these protests have spread - protesters have blocked roads and burned tires. And it's really the biggest protest that they've seen here since the Arab Spring seven years ago.

KING: And it has - as we've seen, it has taken the prime minister out of his office. What does this mean for Jordan's King Abdullah, a man with close ties to the U.S.? Do these protests threaten him?

ARRAF: They don't necessarily threaten him because so much of Jordan's identity is tied up in the monarchy here. But it is a precarious position for the kingdom. Now, when you talk to the protesters, they all chant support for the country. They make clear they love this country. And they make clear that they support the king. But they want a new government.

Now, the king controls in some sense the government, so there is that. But he's not in danger of going anywhere. But what he really needs to do, according to the protesters and according to economists, is figure out a government that can actually find a way to cut government spending and respond to people.

KING: NPR's Jane Arraf, we're going to have to leave it there. Speaking to us from Amman - thanks so much, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABAJI'S "TSHINGANE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.