Jordanian protesters call for ‘change in laws, not faces’
AMMAN - Jordan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said the government would withdraw the controversial proposed income tax law, which had fuelled rare nationwide demonstrations.
Razzaz’s announcement came a day after thousands of Jordanians participated in a second mass strike to protest the draft income tax law, despite the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki and King Abdullah II weighing in to resolve the crisis.
The announcement was followed by a statement by Senate President Faisal al-Fayez calling for an end to the strikes and demonstrations.
More than 1,000 protesters took to the streets June 6, in a demonstration called by the Professional Associations Council, demanding “a change in laws and not faces.” The strike was preceded by protests orchestrated by dozens of associations, unions and societies and attended by thousands of protesters.
Having effectively brought one government down, protest leaders said they were willing to give the new prime minister a chance to change course.
“We need to know the position of the new government regarding the controversial income tax law,” Ali Obous, president of Jordan’s Medical Association and the head of Professional Associations Council, told demonstrators. “In response to the directives of King Abdullah II, who called for an open dialogue, we are giving the new government a chance until it is formed.”
Many protesters interrupted Obous’s call with boos. They called for additional protests in front of prime ministry’s headquarters.
“What we want is simple. We need the withdrawal of the income tax law and not the change in faces. We are happy that our king listened to us and that he wants the new government to open a kind of dialogue. This is a big boost to all those who demonstrate every night,” Ahmad Okaily, 33, an engineer said.
“The situation cannot be delayed and we want action from the new government to solve the situation,” he added.
Rania Ershaid, 38, a teacher, said the protest was an act of duty towards the country and people’s living standards.
“Our union called for a strike against the income tax law and we are here as one people and one nation to express our rejection of this law, which has brought us misery and sadness. We hope that the new government will find a solution,” she said.
“It is not enough that we have been suffering for many months from the increase in taxes on commodities and hike in prices, now we have to deal with our income tax law, which has not been studied very well. Instead of increasing prices, why not work on finding jobs for young people?”
Jordan’s unemployment rate is 14.9%, sixth highest among Arab countries, the International Labour Organisation said.
Samir Barhoum, editor-in-chief of the Jordan Times and who attended a meeting with King Abdullah and media leaders, said: “The king’s talk was frank and full of hope for a better future for the country and, indeed, it was a chance to see the glass half full, to think of ways to turn challenges into opportunities. For the king, the protests were an opportunity to correct whatever needs to be corrected and to have a new beginning” behind Razzaz.
Barhoum said the government would face “the more difficult challenge of meeting protesters’ demands, some of which are difficult to achieve, particularly reducing electricity and fuel prices, scrapping the income tax draft law and reinstating bread subsidies.”
The Professional Associations Council said it would continue to call for strikes until the tax law is withdrawn.