Protests against Jordan’s king rock capital

Anger builds with sharp increase in gas, fuel prices

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However, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Tuesday announced on state TV that fuel subsidies would be lifted. The decision pushed up the prices of cooking and heating gas by 54 percent.

The decision was expected, and most Jordanians had spent the past week bracing for the news.

Mr. Ensour said fuel subsidies should have been lifted two years ago. According to the state-run Petra news agency, Mr. Ensour said the government didn’t act “because of the political circumstances,” a thinly veiled reference to the Arab Spring.

Mr. Ensour said delaying this week’s decision to raise prices would have led to a “catastrophe and insolvency.” The decision is driven by a need to reduce a large budget deficit and meet conditions to secure a $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Jordanians are also angry about a government retirement plan for parliamentarians, which they say has contributed to the deficit.

“Jordanians say, ‘If you can raise fuel [prices], why can’t you eliminate this kind of retirement plan?’” Ms. Omar said. “People would like to see those in the upper levels getting hit as much as people on the ground.”

King Abdullah has fired two prime ministers in the past two years in a bid to calm protests and show he is serious about reforms. In his nearly 13-year rule, he has changed Cabinets eight times. In October, he dissolved the parliament and called early elections.

On Wednesday, about 2,000 protesters hurled rocks at shops in the southern city of Karak, forcing owners to close, according to shopkeeper Mohammad Matarneh, 38, the Associated Press reported.

“Down, down with you, Abdullah,” they chanted. “Get out and leave us alone.”

Police spokesman Mohammad Khatib said 24 protesters accused of attacking riot police in Tuesday’s violence were arrested in Amman. At least 14 people were injured, including 10 police who were hit by rocks, according to a police statement.

Police also reported $1.4 million in damage, including shattered shop windows, burned police cars and other vehicles and damage to government offices, the AP added.

The Hashemite kingdom has been put under further strain by the 20-month-old civil war raging across its northern border in Syria. The conflict has created more than a quarter of a million refugees, who have poured into Jordan, as well as Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was traveling in Australia on Wednesday, announced that the United States will provide $30 million in humanitarian assistance to feed people in Syria as well as the refugees.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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