Jordan's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Protests Against Austerity : Parallels King Abdullah appointed economist Omar Razzaz as his new prime minister. It will be up to Razzaz to defuse a crisis over a plan that would levy income tax even on those earning $11,000 a year.
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Jordan's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Protests Against Austerity

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Jordan's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Protests Against Austerity

Jordan's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Protests Against Austerity

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to Jordan. Today the prime minister resigned, pressured by the biggest nationwide protests the country has seen in years. NPR's Jane Arraf sent this report from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

(CHANTING)

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Jordan doesn't see a lot of big protests, partly because it's under tight control and partly because it takes a lot to bring people out into the streets. But after price hikes on almost everything in the country, combined with really bad services and high unemployment, a plan to raise taxes was the last straw.

(CHANTING)

ARRAF: For four nights in a row until 2 in the morning, thousands of Jordanians came out calling for King Abdullah to replace the government. In central Amman, where the skyline is full of luxury hotels, there were more than 2,000 people out on Sunday night.

So security forces are telling people that they're fine with peaceful protests. But they're asking the protesters on the bridge to get off the bridge because they're afraid it will collapse.

In Amman and in cities across the country, these were the biggest protests since the Arab Spring seven years ago, when demonstrations spread across the region. For the most part, these weren't protests against King Abdullah.

HANADI DWEIK: The king has been trying to modernize the country, to let people know what their duties and what their rights are. He should call for a new government to save the country.

ARRAF: That's protester Hanadi Dweik. She used to be head of administration at a bank. Her family is solidly middle class, and she says they can't afford the water and electricity bills. There were others who can't find jobs and parents worried about their children's futures, all kinds of people here. Munir al-Nuri (ph) describes himself as an entrepreneur. He was holding a sign in six languages reading, we have nothing.

MUNIR AL-NURI: I feel this time is different. If you notice here, no political parties. We are normal people without any political background. We came here to said we want some better life for us.

ARRAF: Later in the morning, prime minister Hani Al-Mulki was summoned to the palace, where he resigned. The head of Jordan's Economic And Social Policy Council, Mustafa Hamarneh, says the new prime minister will have to make sure that citizens see the government is sharing the pain.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MUSTAFA HAMARNEH: I think they need to cut waste in government. There is tremendous waste. I mean, our public officials drive Mercedeses around. You need to cut that. You need to tighten the belt. I think a progressive, proactive government can do that.

ARRAF: Jordan hosts more than a million Syrian refugees. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have cut off funding to the country. The kingdom needs to raise money to get IMF loans. Jordanians are also angry about their U.S. ally moving its embassy in Israel to the disputed city of Jerusalem. King Abdullah in a letter released today said the country faces unprecedented challenges. Jordanians say it will take a new kind of government to solve this crisis. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman, Jordan.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMPSHIRE AND FOAT'S "LULLABY")

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