AMMAN, Jordan — Thousands of Jordanian opposition supporters took to the streets Friday in the country's capital demanding the prime minister step down and venting their anger at rising prices, inflation and unemployment.
It was the third consecutive Friday of protests following Muslim prayers in Jordan, inspired by the unrest in Tunisia and rallies in Egypt demanding the downfall of the country's longtime president.
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About 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan's main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organizations gathered in Amman's downtown, waving colorful banners reading: "Send the corrupt guys to court."
The crowd denounced Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai's unpopular policies. Many shouted: "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians."
Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai's ouster.
King Abdullah II has promised some reforms, particularly on a controversial election law. But many believe it's unlikely he will bow to demands for popular election of the prime minister and Cabinet officials, traditionally appointed by the king.
Rifai also announced a $550 million package of new subsidies in the last two weeks for fuel and staple products like rice, sugar, livestock and liquefied gas used for heating and cooking. It also includes a raise for civil servants and security personnel.
Still, Jordan's economy struggles, weighed down by a record deficit of $2 billion this year. Inflation has also risen by 1.5 percent to 6.1 percent just last month, unemployment and poverty are rampant — estimated at 12 and 25 percent respectively.
Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines.
As they broke into a procession, the demonstrators chanted, "In the name of God, the government must change" and the Muslim holy book "Koran is our constitution, jihad is our path."
Leftist university professor Ibrahim Alloush said it was not a question of changing faces or replacing one prime minister with another. "We're demanding changes on how the country is now run," he said.
He accused the government of impoverishing the working class with
regressive tax codes which forced the poor to pay a higher proportion of
their income as tax.
He also accused parliament as serving as a "rubber stamp" to the executive branch.
"This is what has led people to protest in the streets because they
don't have venues for venting how they feel through legal means,"