King Abdullah has just replaced the government of Faisal al Fayez with the 69 year old academic Adnan Badran. There hasn't been much coverage of this yet - of the four Jordanian Arabic dailies, only al Ghad managed to get a story in to its online edition; none of the major Arab dailies has a story; and al Jazeera covers it but al Arabiya does not.
From what information is out there, the story seems to be that King Abdullah was angry with Fayez's government for "failing to perform up to expectation", especially with regard to the disastrous failed Jordanian initiative at the Arab summit which left Jordan exposed to ridicule (at home and abroad) with nothing to show for it. The
The stories so far have been emphasizing the Algiers Summit fiasco, but I suspect that the King was also upset with how Fayez's government has been handling the domestic issues that I've been writing about so much. Top Jordanian officials (I've heard) have been upset with what they see as the clumsy handling of the professional associations law standoff, and have been worried that the unfavorable publicity might negatively impact relations with Washington. I've been hoping that it would have such an effect, of course, even though I've seen no public evidence that it has. Perhaps the removal of Fayez can be interpreted as suggesting that there had been some attention to these domestic issues in private? Or that Abdullah and his advisers thought that it was only a matter of time before they did become an issue?
At any rate, while Badran has not yet announced a new government, al Jazeera mentions a couple of prominent figures who will return to the new government, including the uber-competent Marwan Muasher and the former planning minister Basem Awadhallah (who had resigned from Fayez's government). Notably not mentioned is controversial Interior Minister Samir Habashneh, which supports my thesis that the escalating domestic conflicts had a lot to do with the change.
Badran himself is a respected academic. I don't know much about his politics. He is not a young man, and seems an odd choice to lead Abdullah's avowed modernization and transformational agenda. Nor is he a recycled, experienced former Prime Minister, who could be counted on to smooth over a turbulent domestic and Arab environment while ramming through desired changes. He's the brother of former Prime Minister Mudar Badran, who was both a former director of Jordanian Intelligence and popular with the Muslim Brotherhood. We'll have to wait and see what kind of Cabinet Badran puts together, and what kind of marching orders the King gives him.
The removal of Fayez sort of came out of the blue, and was sort of expected. There has been a lot of criticism of Fayez in the political class of late, both from the government and from the opposition. This actually should help to demonstrate the point of the Muslim Brotherhood's recent call for an "elected, popular government." Fayez, like all Jordanian Prime Minister's, serves at the discretion of the King. He fell not because of a Parliamentary no-confidence vote, or because of a lack of popularity, but because the King wanted a change.
It's interesting that the day before the change, government spokeswoman Asma Khader gave a widely reported (in Jordan) speech declaring that "our government is elected and enjoys the confidence of Parliament", a clear response to the MB's demands for a "popular elected government." She also argued that Jordan's reform process preceded any American initiatives, including the Greater Middle East Initiative. Once again, it is unclear to me why Jordanians are arguing so much about whether or not reform is being driven by America - both the government (Khader) and the opposition (Hamza Mansour yesterda) have been at pains to declare this - when there has been no such public American pressure.
UPDATE: Want to know the American view of the Jordanian change of government? Really? Then you are obviously not a State Department briefer or a member of the press corp in attendance at the Daily Press Briefing. The word "Jordan" did not come up today. Actually, I suppose that's probably better than an appropriation of this entirely typical piece of Jordanian political business as usual as somehow being further evidence of "freedom on the march"... which we'll probably start seeing soon.
UPDATE 2: I just saw the very astute Jordanian columnist Samih al Mayateh on al Jazeera - the host cut him off pretty quickly, unfortunately, but he had some useful comments. Basically, he pointed out that the decision was King Abdullah's alone, and that most of the Jordanian political elite was taken by surprise by the choice of Adnan Badran. Even a day ago, if I heard him correctly, a bunch of other names had been circulating as possible replacements for Faisal al Fayez. The choice of Badran had to do more with Abdullah's level of comfort with him than with his identification with any political trend or a clear political program - which, Mayateh suggests (and would have elaborated on, no doubt, if the host hadn't so rudely moved on to the next story) is an endemic and structural problem with the Jordanian political system.