AMMAN — Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit named a new cabinet including an Islamist and five leftists on Tuesday following the dismissal of the previous government by King Abdullah II earlier this month. The new 26-member line-up, which was sworn in, includes independent Islamist Abdelrahim Akur, who is a former leader of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, as head of the ministry of Islamic affairs and awqaf (endowments). It also includes five ministers who are considered close to the left — Hussein Mjalli, who becomes justice minister, Mazen Saket (political development), Tarek Massarweh (culture), Samir Habashneh (agriculture), and newspaper editor Taher Adwan (information).
From the centre of the political spectrum, Hazem Kashuh was tasked with the municipal affairs portfolio. Kept on from the previous government were the incumbent ministers for foreign affairs, the interior, planning, water and finance. The opposition Islamic Action Front — political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — gave the new government a cautious response after rejecting an offer at the weekend to join the new government. Its leader Hamzeh Mansur told AFP the new line-up — which includes two women — was “just like its predecessors… but we will wait and see what it does before making a judgement.” Bakhit, 64, tasked with a wide range of political and economic reforms, had made a point of consulting widely on the formation of his new government after the king dismissed his predecessor Samir Rifai, 43, on February 2 in the face of street protests fanned by the examples of Tunisia and Egypt. But Mansur said on Sunday that his party had decided not to take up an offer to join the new government, predominantly men in their 60s, despite initially promising talks with the authorities. Islamist opposition activist Jamil Abu Bakr told AFP on Wednesday that demonstrations and other forms of protest would continue “until the adoption of reforms by the government.” “The Jordanian people do not believe in promises and they are not interested in talk,” he said. “They want action.” Topping the list of reforms that the opposition wants to see in place are changes to the electoral law and to laws governing public freedoms, said Zaki Bani Rsheid, a member of the Islamic Action Front’s executive committee.In a letter to King Abdullah, Bakhit pledged to give priority to changes in the electoral law as part of a dialogue with members of parliament and other national players in order to find a consensus and get reforms through quickly. He also committed to “overall reforms”, “a deep dialogue with all political forces”, and respect for the news media, stressing that a free and credible press would be beneficial to the nation.
The Islamic Action Front (IAF) is generally considered to be the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. The current leader of the IAF is Secretary-General Ishaq Farhan a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, one of the three founders of the IAF, and a former education minister and senator. Mr. Farhan is also listed as a director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), founded in the U.S. in 1980 by important members of the Global Muslim Brotherhood who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge.” IIIT was associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, a network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia that was raided by the Federal government in March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism. In 2000, Mr. Farhan was denied entry to the U.S. after having had his visa revoked in the prior year without informing him. The New York Times reported at that time that unidentified American diplomats called Mr. Farhan a “moderating force” and that he “as kept a distance from the vociferous opposition to peaceful relations with Israel.” However, in 2003 a media report said that the IAF had “declared a jihad in favor of Iraq and Palestine if the US attacks Iraq.”
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