Jordan Tribesmen Warn King to Reform or Risk Revolt

VOA News

February 08, 2011

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Members of Jordan's major Bedouin tribes have added their voices to opposition demands for urgent political reforms, warning King Abdullah that he risks a popular revolt unless such reforms are carried out.

In a letter to the Jordanian monarch published Monday, 36 tribesmen called for changes to an electoral law that critics say allows the king's loyalists to dominate the parliament. The tribesmen also demanded the formation of a new government to oversee a transparent parliamentary election based on the revised rules.

The tribesmen warned that suppression of freedoms and looting of public funds will result "sooner or later" in Jordan facing a revolt similar to recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

It was a rare rebuke to King Abdullah from Jordan's tribesmen, who are the main domestic allies of the ruling Hashemite monarchy. The king already has faced weeks of public protests organized by Islamists and other opposition groups angered by growing poverty and a lack of political freedoms.

U.S. ratings agency Moody's warned Tuesday that it may cut its rating on Jordan's foreign currency debt because of concern about growing turmoil in the region. It lowered its outlook on Jordan's foreign currency government bonds to negative from stable, saying the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia has increased the risk of fiscal and economic problems.

King Abdullah named a new prime minister last week in response to the Jordanian protests and tasked him with implementing sweeping political and economic reforms.

In Monday's letter, the tribesmen also called on the king to give up his power to choose the Cabinet. In another demand, they appealed for a crackdown on corruption and the prosecution of officials accused of stealing public funds.

The Bedouin tribesmen also criticized the king's wife, Queen Rania, who is of Palestinian descent. They accused her of interfering in the running of the country and holding a lavish 40th birthday party last year at the expense of the treasury and the poor.