AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan's prime minister promised Sunday to introduce laws some time this year that would give Jordanians a greater say in politics, but angry opposition leaders said the pace of reform is too slow.
A growing protest movement in Jordan is seeking far-reaching political reforms that would restrict the authority of Jordan's King Abdullah II. Currently, the king can dissolve the Cabinet and parliament by decree.
In a speech to parliament Sunday, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, appointed by the king earlier this month, said he is serious about reforms. "I'm not opting for a temporary containment policy, but real reform is a gradual process," he said.
The prime minister said he needs time for a public dialogue about new legislation.
However, Islamist opposition leader Zaki Bani Ersheid said al-Bakhit's speech was "pathetic, disappointing and frustrating."
"Reform isn't gradual and won't take a year. It must be immediate and I mean within one month at the latest," said Bani Ersheid of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's largest opposition group.
"We're not willing to take promises anymore," he said. "It's not only laws that must be amended, but there must also be constitutional changes that would allow for the prime minister and the Cabinet to be elected."
Al-Bakhit told lawmakers that his priority was to change a controversial election law, which the Brotherhood and other critics claim favors conservative tribal loyalists of the king.
The ultimate goal is to have future governments formed from a parliamentary majority, al-Bakhit added.
Jordanian protesters demanded that the prime minister be chosen through elections, not by the king.
Al-Bakhit said the other laws to change this year include bolstering the country's 34 political parties and legislation that would widen press freedoms.
He also promised a decentralization law that would grant far greater autonomy to distant towns and to amend the municipal elections law, which the Brotherhood says has reduced votes in its favor.
Al-Bakhit also pledged to fight corruption and favoritism.
For eight consecutive Fridays, Jordanians have held street demonstrations to demand political change, lower food prices and the dissolution of a parliament they say was chosen on the foundation of a flawed electoral law.
So far, the protests have been largely peaceful and the crowds are much smaller than in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
In one concession, the Cabinet last week revoked a legal provision requiring protesters to seek police permission before holding public rallies.