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Arab Spring Protests Bring Down Government

Jordan was not spared the anti-government protests that swept through the Middle East in early 2011. On Jan. 28, thousands gathered in Amman and other cities, calling for government reform, the resignation of Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai and demonstrating against high food and fuel prices. The protests, led by the Islamic Action Front, triggered the dissolution of al-Rifai's government. In February, King Abdullah named Marouf al-Bakhit as the country's new prime minister and announced subsidies for food and fuel as well as pay increases for civil servants. Al-Bakhit, a diplomat former prime minister, was considered a safe choice. In June, King Abdullah said future governments will be elected rather than appointed.

The new government proved short-lived; on Oct. 17, 2011, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit resigned. King Abdullah II designated Awn Khasawneh as new prime minister. Khasawneh's government was sworn in on Oct. 24 with Khasawneh also serving as defense minister, Umayya Touqan became finance minister, Muhammad al-Raoud interior minister and Nasser Judeh as foreign minister.

On April 26, 2012, Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh resigned. Fayez al-Tarawneh was appointed to replace Khasawne for his second term as prime minister. His first term was from Aug. 1998 to March 1999.

In September, the Jordanian government cut fuel subsidies by 10%—essentially increasing prices—in a attempt to reduce the $3 billion deficit. Protests broke out and 89 out of 120 members of Parliament signed a no confidence document in Prime Minister Tarawneh. King Abdullah then demanded that Tarawneh rescind the increase. In October the king dissolved Parliament and appointed Abdullah Ensour as prime minister—the fourth in a year. The following month, the government, feeling increased economic strain with the influx of 200,000 refugees from Syria, said it would cut gas subsidies by 14% for vehicles and by 50% for cooking oil. Violent protests immediately erupted, with demonstrators directing their anger at King Abdullah.

Parliamentary elections were held in January 2013, two years early. The Islamic Action Front, the biggest opposition party, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the election, saying electoral reforms put in place after the Arab Spring protests still left urban areas are under-represented in favor of rural areas, where the government draws most of its support. As expected, pro-government candidates dominated the election. In an unprecedented move, King Abdullah sought Parliament's opinion in choosing a prime minister. Ensour, an advocate of democratic reforms, was renominated and was sworn in in March 2013.

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