(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan's king swore in a new Cabinet Wednesday dominated by technocrats to press ahead with stagnated reforms.
The move is traditional to pump in new blood ahead of the newly elected parliament's opening Sunday. Parliament is devoid of the Islamist opposition, which boycotted the November 9 elections.
The new Cabinet is dominated by King Abdullah II's tribal loyalists, ensuring that the king will encounter little opposition to his central foreign policy goals: continuing his strong alliance with the United States and limiting criticism of Israel for its stalled negotiations with the Palestinians.
A royal palace statement listed 31 Cabinet members, including 11 new ministers and 20 incumbents from the outgoing Cabinet.
Prime Minister Samir Rifai and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh retained their posts.
There are three women in the new Cabinet, the same number as before.
The most significant change was giving the interior portfolio to Saad Hayel Srour, a longtime parliament speaker. The tough Bedouin tribesman is expected to deal harshly with rioters detained in a series of incidents this month.
Last week, violent riots erupted in the northwestern city of Salt after a policeman critically wounded a resident with a gunshot to the head during a police chase. During the four-day riots, protesters destroyed public and private property worth millions of dollars.
Abdullah has instructed his prime minister to focus on reforms to slash
unemployment and poverty and encourage more investments. Jordan faces
serious economic challenges, including a record budget deficit of $2.1
billion and a rising foreign debt, now at $12 billion.
Insisting that the pace of political reform was "beyond our
expectations," Abdullah called for wider public participation in the
He also urged changing a controversial electoral law, which prompted
Islamist opposition to boycott the elections. Islamists say the law
devalued votes in areas where they had most support.