Last updated: 11 October, 2012

Jordan king swears in new cabinet ahead of polls

King Abdullah II swore in a 21-member cabinet Thursday a day after asking veteran minister Abdullah Nsur to form an interim government to usher in elections before the end of the year.

The king dissolved parliament last week and called early polls, for which a date has yet to be set but which are already facing a boycott by the powerful Islamist opposition.

Nsur, 73, an outspoken MP and senator who held several key government portfolios in the 1980s and 1990s, is a vocal supporter of sweeping reforms and anti-corruption measures.

He replaces former premier Fayez Tarawneh, who quit in line with constitutional rules following the dissolution of parliament.

Nsur’s cabinet includes Interior Minister Awad Khleifat, returning to a portfolio he first held in 2002.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh retains his post for the fifth time in a row in the new line-up which does not include any women.

“The new team realises the importance of its transitional role to pave the way for parliamentary governments and help Jordanians become partners in decision making,” Nsur wrote in a letter presented to the king.

On Wednesday the king asked Nsur to form a government that must ensure all Jordanians take part in the legislative polls, after Islamists said they would boycott the election.

“The primary responsibility of this government in this transitional phase is to pave the way for a qualitative leap in Jordan’s political history and democratisation,” the king told Nsur in the official letter of designation.

“Between now and election day, your government is expected to continue dialogue with all segments of society, political parties and political forces, to encourage them to effectively take part in the elections as candidates and voters,” the king said.

Nsur’s key challenge will be to persuade the powerful Islamist opposition to back down from their decision to boycott the polls.

He met with Islamists leaders and trade unionists on Thursday ahead of announcing his line-up, but the opposition said in a statement “there was nothing new in the meeting.”

“We are not optimistic about the composition of the government. It gives us more reasons not take part in the upcoming elections,” Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told AFP.

The opposition says the electoral process favours government loyalists at the expense of the Islamists, and has also demanded a parliamentary system in which the prime minister would be elected rather than appointed by the king.

“I do not think this cabinet is capable of tackling any important issue. The challenges are bigger than the government,” political analyst Labib Kamhawi told AFP.

“Nsur’s government will try to encourage the opposition not to boycott the polls. But it will fail because it has nothing to give the opposition in order to make them change their position.”

A date for the elections is to be announced by the newly established Independent Election Commission.