Proposed reforms not enough for Jordan protesters

Jordan's King Abdullah II welcomed proposed constitutional amendments on Sunday, but critics rebuked the changes as insufficient.

The 42 proposed changes to the nearly 60-year-old constitution would still allow King Abdullah to retain most of his absolute powers, according to a 15-page document distributed by the royal palace.

Protesters have been taking to the streets in Jordan for seven months to press the government to expand parliament's powers.

Jordanians are also demanding lower food prices, a greater say in politics, an end to government corruption and the election of a prime minister.

The recommended changes do not address protesters' demands to elect a prime minister, instead keeping the appointment of the post solely with the king.

But a senior government official, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the deliberations, said a separate document addressing the prime minister's appointment would be up for discussion at a later unspecified date.

Jordan's king hailed the proposed changes as a pillar for the country's reforms. He was given the proposed changes in a black leather folder on Sunday after a king-appointed committee oversaw the amendments.

After receiving the folder, King Abdullah said the basis of Jordanian reform "is wider public participation" and "the separation between the branches of government."

He delivered his remarks at a palace dinner with senior government officials, lawmakers and civil society representatives.

Outside the palace, about 200 pro-reform activists protested against the proposed changes, saying they failed to deliver on key demands.

"This is part of the government's gimmicks to block real reforms," said 28-year-old electrician Wael Atout. "The changes are insufficient; we said we want to be able to elect our prime ministers."

The proposed changes to the constitution, which must be approved by the king and parliament, also include limiting the jurisdiction of military courts to only terrorism and espionage cases. Military courts would be stripped of their powers to hear financial and corruption cases, which under vaguely defined laws, had given the government an upper hand in verdicts.

Other changes include marginally expanding the elected parliament's powers.

Under the proposed changes, the king's appointed prime minister and his Cabinet would retain the right to dissolve the country's only elected body, but Cabinet would no longer be able to enforce temporary laws in the absence of elected lawmakers. If Cabinet dissolves parliament, the changes would require ministers to resign within a week instead of the current system that allows them to supervise elections.

Activists said four people were injured in clashes with hundreds of government loyalists Sunday in the town of Karak, 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of the Jordanian capital.


Associated Press writer Dale Gavlak contributed to this report.


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