Recurring political shakedowns in Jordan as crown prince comes to the fore

Prince Hussein has emerged as an important ambassador for the country’s youth but his role in politics remains unclear despite his growing visibility.
Sunday 12/05/2019
Back in the spotlight. Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah in Amman.  (www.alhussein.jo)
Back in the spotlight. Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah in Amman. (www.alhussein.jo)

LONDON - Jordan has been gripped by a political shakedown following a royal court reshuffle and changes in sensitive security and intelligence positions. Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on May 9 announced the appointment of eight new ministers across key portfolios and the merging of other posts.

It was Jordan’s third cabinet reshuffle since June 2018 when Razzaz replaced Hani Mulki, who resigned because of tax protests. The developments exposed the limits of reform and political indecisiveness in the country.

The changes buy Razzaz time and allow Jordanian King Abdullah II to fend off rivals and allegations of misgovernance.

Against the backdrop of the reshuffles, Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah is seeing his public profile boosted as his visits throughout the country become more regular and are reported across state media.

Prince Hussein, the oldest son of King Abdullah, drew attention with a tour of various provinces on Labour Day. He visited start-ups and local businesses providing job opportunities to young Jordanians. The 24-year-old crown prince highlighted the need for home-grown businesses to reach the international market.

Prince Hussein has emerged as an important ambassador for the country’s youth but his role in politics remains unclear despite his growing visibility.

The increase of the crown prince’s public activities and his higher profile came as King Abdullah ordered changes in the country’s sensitive security positions.

A week prior to the reshuffle, King Abdullah appointed Major-General Ahmad Husni as director of the General Intelligence Department, replacing Lieutenant-General Adnan Jundi.

The king praised the intelligence department but added that abuses were taking place in the agency by a small minority that placed personal interests above the country’s.

The king also restructured his own office in the royal court, bringing in new senior advisers and dismissed Faisal Jibril al-Shoubaki as an adviser to the king.

The moves were viewed by analysts as an attempt to purge the old guard and fast-track reforms. King Abdullah warned against “exploitation by various parties that seek to destabilise the country and tamper with security,” the Jordanian Times reported.

Recent Jordanian history shows that political reshuffles have been useful in curtailing domestic instability.

King Abdullah was said to view the measures as necessary to counter domestic threats and other adverse factors, including spillover from the conflict in Syria and an economic slowdown due to regional developments. The unemployment rate in Jordan has spiked to 18.6% and the Jordanian public debt has ballooned to $40 billion.

Observers will be watching domestic manoeuvres — big and small — in Jordan to assess the effectiveness of the reshuffle as residents wonder whether the government is merely reshuffling an old deck of cards.

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