Everywhere the same song and dance:
“We demand social justice and freedom”- (translated: Â we want sharia and the freedom to spread Islam by the sword)
More than 5,000 people from across the political spectrum, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the left wing groups and the trade unions staged Friday what they called a “Day of Rage” in the Jordanian capital of Amman and in the northern town of Irbid.
Jordanian protesters hold a giant national flag, as they march during a protest demanding the resignation of the prime minister and his government over price increases and inflation, in Amman, Jordan on Friday. (AP)
They demanded Prime Minister Samir Rifai step down and for Jordanians to be able to elect their prime minister and other ministers rather than having them appointed by King Abdallah.
Streets protests have mounted over the past week, spurred on by Tunisia’s example, and despite government moves to lower the prices on basic goods and fuel. “(Prime Minister Samir) Rifai, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow,” protesters chanted as they marched from Al-Hussein Mosque in central Amman to the nearby municipality building. “Our demands are legitimate. We want bread and freedom.”
Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, “We demand social justice and freedom,” “No to oppression, yes to change” and, “We need a national salvation government.”
Police spokesman Mohammad Khatib said about 4,000 people took part in the capital’s peaceful protest, organized by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Islamic Action Front.
“What we urgently need is real political and socioeconomic reforms,” IAF secretary general Hamzeh Mansur told the crowds.
About 1,400 people demonstrated in other parts of Jordan, mainly the northern cities of Zarqa and Irbid.
Rifai on Thursday announced a $283 million plan to raise salaries of government staff as well as the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen in the face of popular discontent.
The $28 a month raise came nine days after a $169 million plan to improve living conditions.
The current minimum wage is $211 a month.
But the opposition and others say the new measures are not enough as poverty levels are running at 25% in the desert kingdom, whose capital is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies. “These measures are designed to drug people, nothing more. We need comprehensive reforms,” said prominent unionist Maisarah Malas.
Retired serviceman Faruq Abbadi, 54, agreed. “The government should change its economic policies and mentality. We are protesting today because we want to protect ourselves and our nation. We have gone 50 years backwards,” he said.
Official unemployment is about 14% in the country of six million people, 70% of them under the age of 30. But other estimates put the jobless figure at 30%.
“The new government measures are not enough. Prices and taxes are still high, while our income is still low,” Marwan Malihi, a 52-year-old engineer, said.
A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product, is expected on this year’s $8.8 billion budget.
Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the kingdom in a similar protest on Friday last week.