Jordan PM quits after austerity protests

Demonstrators try to urge drivers to stop their cars on the street during a protest in front of the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman

The dismissal of PM Hani Mulki was demanded in a series of protests against IMF-backed tax increases that have shaken the kingdom.

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The Prime Minister's resignation is coming after he was summoned by King Abdullah II over growing protests against his government's austerity measures.

AMMAN, JORDAN-Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday accepted the resignation of his embattled prime minister and reportedly tapped a leading reformer as a successor, hoping to quell the largest anti-government protests in recent years that are also seen as a potential challenge to his two-decade-old rule.

Following the resignation, the king asked Omar al-Razzaz, education minister in the outgoing government, to form a new government.

Calling on Mulki to step down, the protesters vowed not to "kneel", as trade union and a majority of MPs opposed to the new taxation.

The protestors had converged near the cabinet office, demanding Mulki's resignation, Al Jazeera reported.

Mr Mohammed, along with dozens of taxi drivers, shop owners, waiters, vendors and others - who normally have peak business at night during Ramadan - say demand is so low in the kingdom this year due to the economic situation that they would rather protest than accumulate losses.

As part of a series of economic reforms to decrease Jordan's national debt of $37bn, which is equivalent to 95 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the government introduced price hikes on basic commodities that have incensed many Jordanians.

The bill mainly focuses on three aspects: improving tax collection, curbing tax evasion and boosting tax revenues, which are expected to increase by JD300 million annually.

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Overnight, protesters outside Mulki's office shouted slogans including "the ones raising prices want to burn the country" and "this Jordan is our Jordan, Mulki should leave".

"Rest assured, Jordan is a safe and secure country, and things are under control", said Maj.

According to official estimates, 18.5 per cent of Jordan's population is unemployed, while 20 per cent is on the brink of poverty.

But these policies, supported by the pro-business prime minister, were exceptionally unpopular with Jordanians.

Amman, the capital, ranks as the most expensive city in the Arab world, and it has a higher cost of living than much wealthier cities, like Dubai, London and Washington, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

While some celebrated the change of government, a union leader said a strike planned for Wednesday would go ahead unless the draft income tax law was withdrawn.

With Syria's devastating seven-year since 2011, as many as one million refugees have arrived in Jordan to survive, worsening the state of Jordan's struggling economy.

"This will be accomplished through reforms to bolster economic growth and gradual fiscal consolidation", the International Monetary Fund says on its website. Jordan is heavily reliant on global aid and has a national debt equal to around 95 percent of its gross domestic product.

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