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Jordan, Yemen grapple with effects of protests
By Alice Fordham Special for USA TODAY
Updated |
AMMAN, Jordan — The ripples of protest in the Middle East have led to changes in Jordan and Yemen.

By Salah Malkawi, Getty Images
A woman joins protests Wednesday in Amman, Jordan.
By Salah Malkawi, Getty Images
A woman joins protests Wednesday in Amman, Jordan.
Demonstrators in Jordan demanded Wednesday that King Abdullah II dump his newly appointed prime minster, and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed not to seek re-election.
Hamza Mansour, a leader of the political wing of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, demanded that Jordanians be allowed to elect a prime minister. The Muslim Brotherhood has also joined the Egyptian protests.
The group opposes Marouf al-Bakhit, who was appointed Tuesday in response to protests.
Al-Bakhit "doesn't believe in democracy," Mansour said.
Political analyst Labib Kamhawi said Abdullah's appointment was not a serious attempt to address demands for free elections. Abdullah told Bakhit to make changes to improve the economy.
"Bakhit is a former prime minister, and during his tenure the parliamentary elections were rigged and some of the most notoriously corrupt people were appointed," said Kamhawi, former president of the Human Rights Association in Jordan.
Thousands of people have massed in the streets of Amman​, the capital, in the past four weeks, demanding measures to ease poverty and an end to corruption.
Grievances in Jordan have grown steadily over two decades as the costs of food and fuel soared and salaries remained low. The country, heavily dependent on aid from the United States, has suffered more in the global economic crisis.
Journalist Khalid Jarrar said there is widespread disillusionment and disinterest in politics. Turnout was low in elections last year, and Jordanians feel that members of parliament use their influence to do favors for constituents rather than act as a national governing body, he said.
"But what happened in Tunisia really changed what people think about the limits of what's possible, what everyone in the Arab world thought was possible," Jarrar said. Protesters drove Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from the country last month. Demonstrations in Yemen and Egypt followed. "The notion that it was possible for people to make a difference is something that is entirely alien to me."
"Whether some like it or not, King Abdullah is widely liked," political scientist Naseem Tarawnah wrote in his blog, The Black Iris, which is sympathetic to but critical of the Jordanian authorities. He said "the monarchy's interwoven system has undeniably created an environment where way too many people are dependent on its existence and/or benefit from its existence, whether directly or indirectly."
Yemen's President Saleh said Wednesday he will not seek another term when the current one ends in 2013 and he will not try to install his son as the country's next leader.
Saleh has been in power for more than three decades, during which time his country has become a haven for al-Qaeda terrorists, according to the State Department. Among al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen is Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen wanted by the United States in connection with terror attacks against Americans.
Saleh asked political opponents "to re-engage in dialogue in hopes of reaching a sustainable and reconcilable political agreement," the Yemeni government said.
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