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Middle East
Thousands protest in Jordan
Protesters gather across the country, demanding the prime minister step down.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2011 14:36 GMT
Thousands took to the street across Jordan demanding the prime minister step down[Reuters]

Thousands of people in Jordan have taken to the streets in protests, demanding the country's prime minister step down, and the government curb rising prices, inflation and unemployment.

In the third consecutive Friday of protests, about 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan's main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organisations gathered in the capital, waving colourful banners reading: "Send the corrupt guys to court".

The crowd denounced Samir Rifai's, the prime minister, and his unpopular policies.

Many shouted: "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.''

Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai's ouster.

Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines.

King Abdullah has promised some reforms, particularly on a controversial election law. But many believe it is unlikely he will bow to demands for the election of the prime minister and Cabinet officials, traditionally appointed by the king.

Rifai also announced a $550 million package of new subsidies in the last two weeks for fuel and staple products like rice, sugar, livestock and liquefied gas used for heating and cooking. It also includes a raise for civil servants and security personnel.

Record deficit

However, Jordan's economy continues to struggle, weighed down by a record deficit of $2bn this year.

Inflation has also risen by 1.5 per cent to 6.1 per cent just last month, unemployment and poverty are rampant - estimated at 12 and 25 per cent respectively.

Ibrahim Alloush, a university professor, told the Associated Press that it was not a question of changing faces or replacing one prime minister with another.

"We're demanding changes on how the country is now run," he said.

He also accused the government of impoverishing the working class with regressive tax codes which forced the poor to pay a higher proportion of their income as tax.

He also accused parliament as serving as a "rubber stamp'' to the executive branch.

"This is what has led people to protest in the streets because they don't have venues for venting how they feel through legal means," Alloush said.
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