Jordan Swears In Ex-General as Leader: How Is This a Good Idea?

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A week after firing Prime Minister Samir Rifai to quell public unrest, Jordan's King Abdullah II swore in Rifai's replacement, Marouf Bakhit. Unlike Samir Rifai whose reputation is that of a business-friendly conservative, Bakhit is an ex-general whom supporters consider a reasonable conservative.

So the good news, one supposes, is that King Abdullah tried to answer the public's demand for reform and slotted in guy he says was told to implement "practical, swift and tangible steps to launch a real political reform process, in line with the king's vision of comprehensive reform, modernisation and development."

And yet, is hiring a military guy with a track record of being a pretty inert leader when he was Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 really the best thing for the country? What with all the rest of the instability in the region and fears of military takeovers, isn't this exactly what we didn't want to see happen?

The Islamic Action Front, which The Guardian notes is the political arm of the Islamic Brotherhood, is far from pleased with the move, and say Bakhit's first term as prime minister consisted of government mismanagement, corruption and electoral fraud. Adding to their list of grievances: his ties to the military, which they think should have disqualified him from consideration. What Islamic Brotherhood wants, The New York Times says, is "more democracy rather than a change of personnel."

The Council of Foreign Relations' Robert Danin has also previously opposed Bakhit's appointment for two reasons. The first: he did nothing as prime minister the first time around. The second: Jordanians weren't looking for a replacement, they were looking for an election to choose their replacement.

So what about the other side of the argument? Bakhit is not without supporters, the Times points out: right now his fan base includes Jordanian East Bankers, who provide the majority of the staff for the country's security forces and tribal elders. These groups objected to the previous government because the push to privatize industries has hurt their standard of living. Tribal ties are important, politically, to the monarchy, so Abdullah may have had this key constituency in mind with the pick. Is it good for the country overall, though? Guess we'll see.

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