Last updated: 21 August, 2013

Jordan PM reshuffles cabinet ahead of local elections

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday ahead of municipal elections next week, appointing two more women but leaving the foreign, interior and finance portfolios unchanged.

The newcomers include Lana Mamkegh, a state television presenter and columnist, as culture minister and Lina Shabeeb, a university professor, at transport.

Their appointments increased the number of women in the cabinet to three, as Social Development Minister Reem Abu Hassan kept her post.

Also new to the government is Khaled Kalaldeh, secretary general of the pro-reform Social Leftist Movement, who will be in charge of political and parliamentary affairs.

Lawyer Bassam Talhuni is the new justice minister, while the head of the public Prine Hamzah Hospital, Ali Hiasat, takes over health and the head of the Electricity Regulatory Commission, Mohammed Hamad, takes the energy portfolio.

Mohammad Thneibat, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now in charge of education.

Interior Minister Hussein Majali, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Finance Minister Ummaya Tukan and Information Minister Mohmmad Momani all keep their jobs.

King Abdullah II issued a decree approving the reshuffle of the cabinet, which Nsur formed in March. He formed a first government in October last year.

Nsur, 73, who held several key ministries in the 1980s and 1990s, has been an outspoken advocate of reform in the desert kingdom.

In March, Nusr merged several portfolios to form a 19-member cabinet, the smallest in Jordan in more than four decades, as he tried to cut spending.

The country is trying to reduce a $2 billion deficit this year, as it seeks to tackle foreign debt of more than $23 billion.

But with Wednesday’s reshuffle, the cabinet expanded to 27 ministers.

“I think it was a technical and not political reshuffle,” analyst Oraib Rintawi, who runs the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told AFP.

“In my opinion, the reshuffle seeks to help the ministers do their job efficiently, because handling two portfolios or more is practically very difficult.”

Rintawi said the reshuffle “is unlikely to bring any change to government policies.”

“It simply seeks to prolong the government’s term and give it a chance to do things in a better way.”

The reshuffle came as Jordan prepares to hold municipal elections on August 27.

“Successive governments are always reshuffled before departure. They take a chance but never use it. I do not see any benefit from today’s reshuffle,” said Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s main opposition group.

“They are buying time to divert the attention of the public from real problems. I do not expect anything to improve unless the entire mechanism of forming government changes.”

The king appointed Nsur to form his second government following unprecedented consultations between the palace and the 150-member parliament.

The constitution gives the king the power to sack and appoint prime ministers and dissolve parliament.