Jordan's king: May take 2-3 years for elected PM
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's King Abdullah II said Tuesday it may take "at least two or three years" to put in place an elected government to replace a royally appointed one.
The monarch's remarks came in a meeting with young Jordanians two days after a nationally televised address in which he endorsed the idea of prime ministers and Cabinets elected from parliamentary majorities, conceding to a major demand raised in six months of pro-democracy street protests.
In Sunday's speech, he didn't say when the change might come about. The vague long-range timetable offered Tuesday is unlikely to satisfy at least some dissidents seeking speedier liberalization of Jordanian politics. The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the chief opposition group, has demanded quick action on power-sharing.
The government has said it is working on relevant laws on political reform, to be enacted this year.
Government officials said privately the leading idea is to have Jordan's 33 fragmented political parties merge into two — like the U.S. Republicans and Democracts — or possibly three — like Britain's right, left and center. Then the head of the party winning a majority of seats in Jordan's elected Chamber of Deputies would form a Cabinet.
Under the 1952 constitution, the power to name prime ministers and other Cabinet members has long been vested in Jordan's kings.
The informants insisted on anonymity because they were leaking the substance of government discussions to the media.
In Tuesday's meeting, Abdullah said it should be "clear to all that if you start now building political parties, you might need at least two or three years to render these parties mature and well enough established to make gains in legislative elections, and, subsequently, to implement their programs on the ground.
"In other words, we should start now for there is no time to waste."
The monarch was meeting with young Jordanians — aged 20 to 30 — from the country's 12 provinces, including Tafila, where stone-throwing youths exploded in anger at rough handling by police during the king's visit to their poor town on Monday. It was not immediately clear whether any of the stone throwers attended Tuesday's meeting.
Such spurts of violence have been rare in Jordan while other Arab states have been rocked by anti-authoritarian turmoil in recent months. The incident pointed up Jordanians' resentment of heavy-handed control by the kingdom's security forces.
Abdullah also said Jordan's parties must have an active role in assisting his appointed Cabinet in improving living conditions in this resource-barren nation, saddled with a heavy foreign debt, rampant unemployment, poverty and inflation. He said the parties should draft programs on improved health care, education, taxation and in other areas.
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