Jordan Islamists skeptical over new premier Bakhit

Jordan Islamists skeptical over new premier Bakhit

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan's main opposition party, said Wednesday it was discouraged by King Abdullah II's appointment of Marouf Bakhit as new prime minister, dpa reported.

"We think he is not the right man for conducting the required political reforms," the head of the IAF Political Department, Zaki Bani Ersheid, told the German Press Agency dpa.

"The main reason for our opposition to Bakhit's premiership is the fact that his government was responsible for the rigging of the 2007 elections," Bani Ersheid added.

Bakhit formed his first cabinet in November 2005 and was replaced by King Abdullah in November 2007.

The IAF and its mother group, the Muslim Brotherhood movement, accused Bakhit's government of conducting false elections in 2007 with the aim of shrinking their influence in parliament and the general public.

In the 2007 polls, the number of IAF deputies at the then 110- member lower house of parliament fell sharply to six, from 17 in the previous chamber.

The state-funded National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) seemed to support the IAF charges when it acknowledged that certain "irregularities" had taken place during the 2007 polls.

King Abdullah on Tuesday sacked the government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai after a series of protests sweeping the country the past three weeks.

He caught Islamists and other political quarters off-guard when he asked Bakhit to form a new cabinet to which he assigned the duty of taking "speedy, practical and tangible steps to launch a process of real political reforms that reflects our comprehensive modernisation vision."

On Wednesday, media commentators were questioning Bakhit's ability to carry out political reforms, given the suspected rigging of the 2007 polls and other cases of corruption.

"Will Bakhit be able in his second government to surmount the mistakes of the first one?" Fahd Kheetan, managing director of the independent daily Alarab Alyawm asked.

Bakhit's appointment as prime minister came amid reports that King Abdullah was now prepared to hold his first meeting with the Islamic movement in the country in many years.

Bani Ersheid confirmed that Islamists were expecting to meet with the King, but said that a specific date had not been fixed yet.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the IAF, boycotted the November 9 elections, citing the Rifai government's failure to adopt political reforms including a new election system.

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