Jordan’s King Abdullah II has appointed long-time politician Hani Mulki as the new prime minister responsible for forming an interim government with parliamentary elections fast approaching.
The king ordered the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour’s government as its four-year term came to an end and dissolved parliament on Sunday. Mulki will shepherd in the elections, which are set to take place within the next four months.
Jordanian analysts said the moves came as no surprise as both steps were long anticipated in light of domestic and regional developments.
The outgoing Ensour, who served since 2012, was one of the longest-serving prime ministers in Jordan’s history. Traditionally prime ministers serve between one to two years, and in some instances for few months only.
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Ensour’s long tenure witnessed the passing of a new election law, controversial economic reforms, and constitutional amendments that gave the king absolute control over the legislative and judicial branches, in addition to his own executive powers as king.
The new prime minister-designate Mulki was the head of the Aqaba economic zone before he was chosen by King Abdullah.
Husam Abdallat, a former senior government aide at the prime minister’s office, told Al Jazeera from Amman that Mulki will most likely be given the job of attempting to engineer new negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
“Mulki will be working to bring Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiation table and work to bring a final solution to the Palestinian cause which most likely be at the expense of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Tareq al-Fayed, an Amman-based analyst on Jordanian affairs and a journalist at the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said Mulki has two major mandates during his tenure.
“The first is to manage the news phase of the parliamentary elections and set the government’s political agenda. The second is to manage Israeli-Jordanian relations, which have seen tension over Israel’s policies and encroachment on the Palestinians in Jerusalem and against al-Aqsa mosque,” Fayed told Al Jazeera.
Strong Israeli ties
One of the final acts of the outgoing parliament last week was the passing of the “investment law”, which allows foreign countries, including Israel, to invest in strategic projects in Jordan, such as energy and infrastructure development.
The majority of parliamentarians voted in a morning session against the inclusion of Israel in the law, but later in the day went on to rescind that vote.
“Passing the investment law and allowing Israel to have control over our economics constitutes a serious threat to Jordan’s economic interests and its national security,” said retired army general and columnist Mousa al-Odwan, who writes for the Al-Maqar online newspaper in Amman.
Mulki, 65, previously chaired the Jordanian government committee that negotiates with Israel from 1994-96.
Fayed noted that Mulki enjoys long and strong ties with Israeli leaders, which would not only enable him to smooth over bilateral differences – including over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – but also bring in Israeli capital and investment to help the faltering Jordanian economy.
National security threats
Odwan told Al Jazeera he thinks Mulki is a “fresh face” and a choice that is much better than the typical ones based on family ties and personal relationships that have dominated the prime minister’s office for decades.
He also highlighted that the economic situation in Jordan has reached dangerous levels. “Mulki must embark on new economic policies that would revive the Jordanian economy and help the Jordanian public. I wish him well in this area,” he said.
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