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Jordan protests reach fifth day over proposed tax increases

The government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to carry out economic reforms and austerity measures to rein in growing public debt.
Image: Protest against new income tax in Amman
Jordanian security forces block protesters in Amman on Monday.Andre Pain / EPA

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By Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — Anti-government protests resumed in Jordan despite the resignation of the country’s prime minister who had led the push for unpopular austerity measures.

Hani Mulki resigned as Jordan's prime minister on Monday.Khalil Mazraawi / AFP - Getty Images file

Several thousand Jordanians marched toward the office of outgoing Prime Minister Hani Mulki overnight and into early Tuesday, demanding the government scrap proposed tax increases which critics say mostly target the poor and the middle class.

Riot police scuffled with some of the marchers, trying to keep them away from the building, but the fifth street protest in as many days was largely peaceful. Police chief Major General Fadel al-Hamoud told Reuters Monday that security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law during protests, and 42 security force members had been injured.

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Mulki resigned on Monday, as Jordan’s King Abdullah II tried to get a handle on the biggest protests in the kingdom in several years.

The monarch, who has the ultimate say on policy decisions, promised change, but gave no specifics on possible reforms.

Jordanian media, including the government-linked Al-Rai newspaper, widely reported Monday that the current education minister, Omar Razzaz, was tapped as Mulki’s successor. Razzaz had previously held senior positions in the World Bank and is considered a reformer.

Still, there has been no official announcement, and it was not clear when and if Razzaz would be appointed.

Protest organizers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms. It’s not clear whether Mulki’s eventual replacement would have such a mandate.

In the march, which started late Monday, some of the protesters chanted, “No to Mulki, No to Razzaz.”

An umbrella organization for more than a dozen unions and professional organizations said it would go ahead with a planned one-day strike on Wednesday, while several other unions said they would suspend their protests to give the country a chance to solve its problems after the resignation of Mulki.

Jordan’s government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to carry out economic reforms and austerity measures to rein in growing public debt.

The kingdom has experienced an economic downturn in part because of prolonged conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a large influx of refugees several years ago. The official unemployment rate has risen above 18 percent, and it’s believed to be double that among young Jordanians.

Reuters contributed.