Jordan engulfed in protests over fuel price hike (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Thousands demanding economic and political reforms and lower gas prices have been holding mass rallies across Jordan. Jordanian authorities had to increase security measures throughout the country, particularly in the capital.
A coalition of leftist parties and Islamists organized the rally to pressure authorities to reverse their decision to cut fuel subsidies in a bid to tackle a $5 billion budget deficit. The hike in gas prices by as much as 53 per cent could save $42 million by the year’s end.
In Amman, police have cordoned off more than 300 protesters after Friday prayers outside the Grand Mosque to prevent them from marching towards the royal palace.
The protesters believe that the government’s decision will lead to a social disaster, and threatens to destabilize the country.
“The government must be dismissed. It is making hasty decisions that will damage the social fabric and lead to the erosion of the middle class,” Ali Abul Sukkar, president of the Shura council at the Islamic Action Front (IAF) told ANSA during the protest.
“This government has to go,” and “those who want to raise prices want to see the country burn,” protesters shouted. Demonstrators also burnt election cards as a way to show that they will boycott next month’s parliamentary elections.
Around 200 people protested in Zarqa, east of the capital, at a demo organized by the Muslim Brotherhood while others rallied in Maan and other towns in the south of the country, according to security officials.
Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur defended the government’s measures, saying the decision was “unavoidable” given the economic situation in the country.
Initially the protests against the government’s decision led to violence, with one person killed and 71 injured, police said.
Law enforcement have detained 158 people following the outbreak of the unrest over a week ago, with 20 subsequently released.
A source told AFP on Monday that the court had “charged 101 suspects with incitement against the government, rioting and illegal gathering,” adding that 13 were minors.
The hike in costs for gasoline, cooking gas, diesel fuel and kerosene was announced in mid November, following the monarch’s reshuffling of the government in early October.
The kingdom depends on imports for 95 per cent of its energy needs, and is finding it difficult to secure alternatives to Egyptian gas supplies, which are often sabotaged.
The Gulf Cooperation Council are brainstorming ways to help Jordan come up with fuel supplies, the United Arab Emirates said on Monday.
Islamists are planning to hold their next rally on November 30.
Protesters from the Islamic Action Front and other opposition parties shout slogans during a demonstration against rising fuel prices after Friday prayers in Amman November 23, 2012 (Reuters / Muhammad Hamed)
Jordanian protesters burn identity cards to encourage citizens to boycott the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections in front of the Al-Hussein mosque in Amman on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Khalil Mazraawi)
A Jordanian regime loyalist, with his face covered with the colours of his national flag, attends a march in support of Jordanian King Abdullah II (portrait) near the Islamic Action Front Party office in Amman on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Khalil Mazraawi)
Regime loyalists shout slogans of support for Jordan’s King Abdullah as protesters from the Islamic Action Front and other opposition parties demonstrate against rising fuel prices after Friday prayers in Amman November 23, 2012 (Reuters / Muhammad Hamed)
Jordanian regime loyalists wave their national flag and shout slogans during a demostration in support of Jordanian King Abdullah II near the Islamic Action Front Party office in Amman on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Khalil Mazraawi)