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New Jordan PM promises chance as anti-tax protests resume

June 6, 2018
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Jordanian riot police and security forces scuffle with protesters attempting to breach the police lines during a demonstration outside the the Prime Minister's office, in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, June 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad al-Adayleh)

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s incoming prime minister said Wednesday he will work with different parties on a fair tax system, suggesting he will be responsive to criticism of a tax plan that forced out his predecessor.

Omar Razzaz posted the conciliatory message on Twitter a day after Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed him to the post. Razzaz, considered a reformer, replaces Hani Mulki, who quit amid mounting protests against a tax plan viewed as unfair to the poor and the middle class.

Despite the promise of a new beginning by Razzaz, several thousand people marched near the prime minister’s office for a seventh straight day.

Protesters demanded that the new government scrap the current tax proposal, restore subsidies for bread, lower fuel prices and fight corruption.

Hala Akhbar, a news site linked to Jordan’s military, said a protester stabbed and injured a policeman and was arrested. Up to now, the protests had overwhelmingly been peaceful.

Underpinning the sustained demonstrations is growing public anger about an economic and political system that many Jordanians view as impenetrable, with benefits reserved for small elites.

The country has also grappled with an economic slowdown, largely linked to regional turmoil, as well as high unemployment and rising public debt. The International Monetary Fund has sought sweeping economic changes, including subsidy cuts and price hikes for fuel, electricity and other basics.

It’s not clear how the king, who has final say over policy, will appease public anger, while not rolling back the IMF-mandated overhaul.

There were some signs that the protests might be ebbing.

Professional associations with about a half million members staged a warning strike Wednesday to protest the tax bill. But Jordan’s trade union federation said it would suspend protests to give the Razzaz government a chance to address the country’s economic problems.

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