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04AMMAN5725 2004-07-11 13:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Amman
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 005725 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/11/2014

REF: A. AMMAN 5131

B. AMMAN 4555

C. AMMAN 3288

D. AMMAN 1784

E. 03 AMMAN 7804

Classified By: DCM David M. Hale for reasons 1.5 (b) (d)


1. (C) The government of Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez
enjoyed a rise in public approval ratings, according to an
opinion poll conducted 200 days after the government's
formation. The poll director attributed this development to
low initial expectations and a combination of one-time
factors, and predicted a drop in the government's popularity
absent reduced poverty and unemployment. The GOJ has
attempted to bolster its image via the media, but Jordanians
continue to grumble privately about corruption and government
shortcomings while feeling less free to express their views
publicly. End Summary.




2. (U) A poll by the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), a
think-tank affiliated with the University of Jordan,
conducted 200 days after the formation of Prime Minister
Faisal al-Fayez's cabinet, showed a marked increase in
positive public opinion of the government's performance. Out
of 1,405 respondents polled for the national sample, 23.3
percent thought that the government was able to "shoulder its
responsibilities to a great extent," compared to only 15.9
percent surveyed in February after the government had been in
office 100 days (see ref d). Among 721 opinion leaders
(including senior officials, business leaders, prominent
journalists, academics and heads of professional
associations), this percentage increased from 22.8 to 31.8
percent over the same time period.

3. (U) Both samples showed continued doubt over the
government's ability to improve economic conditions. Among
opinion leaders, only 35.5 percent polled said the government
would succeed in combating poverty, compared to 37.6 percent
of the general public. The issue of unemployment elicited
similar numbers, with 39.1 percent of opinion leaders and
45.2 percent of the national sample saying the government
would be successful in reducing unemployment. These figures
are little changed since the February poll. Over 90 percent
of all respondents said price hikes on fuel derivatives and
the sales tax increase had placed an additional burden on
their household budgets.




4. (C) Given the unpopular fuel and tax hikes (see ref d),
the poll numbers indicating increased confidence in the
government came as a surprise. Dr. Fares Braizat, director
of the CSS polling unit, noted to PolOff that the ratings
"had nowhere else to go but up" as the February numbers were
some of the lowest in the eight-year history of the CSS
polls. Braizat further attributed the rise to the following
one-time factors: King Abdullah's May visit to the U.S.
(trumpeted, at palace direction, in the press as a resounding
success), the GOJ decision to provide national health
insurance to all Jordanian children under the age of six and
to more than 300,000 needy citizens, announcement of the
extension of the Saudi oil grant to Jordan, and a wave of
nationalism prompted by the foiling of a terrorist plot to
bomb high-profile targets in Amman (see ref c).

5. (C) Braizat said that the current government was more
"media savvy" than its predecessors and quick to publicize
its actions that might register positively with the public.
Major Jordanian media outlets were complicit in this PR
campaign, according to Braizat, as evidenced by the gushing
praise heaped on the King upon his return from the U.S. in
May and the hype surrounding the terrorist plot (see ref b).
Braizat opined that it would be very difficult, if not
impossible, for the GOJ to generate as much favorable
publicity for itself before the next CSS poll (to be
conducted in September), and predicted that the approval
ratings were "bound to go down" without noticeable progress
in combating poverty, unemployment and corruption (the three
issues of most concern to poll respondents).




6. (C) Conscious of its public image, the GOJ has actively
controlled the fallout of the April fuel and price increases.
It announced, for example, that there would be no further
fuel price hikes this year and decided at the end of June to
raise municipal employees' salaries on the same basis
approved in April for military personnel and GOJ civil
servants. PM al-Fayez continues to make the rounds holding
discussions with MPs, civil society organizations, and other
groups in an attempt to bolster the GOJ's standing. King
Abdullah has weighed in on the government's behalf several
times, publicly expressing his confidence in the ministers
and stating as recently as July 6 that government economic
programs "are on the right path."

7. (C) Despite the government's PR efforts, and in contrast
to the improved opinion poll numbers, Jordanians continue to
gripe privately about their government. Stories of alleged
government corruption (reported septel) are ever present
while the recent scandal over the leaking of questions on the
secondary school Tawjihi exam (see ref a) reflected poorly on
the GOJ. West Amman's salons are abuzz with criticism of the
government, and the recent issuance of signed, public
manifestos against the GOJ's Iraq policy indicates that
opposition elements see new opportunity to exploit the public
mood. However, public attacks on government policy remain
rare. According to public polls conducted by the University
of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies, 69 percent of
Jordanians in autumn 1999 (at the beginning of King
Abdullah's reign) said that they were afraid of openly
criticizing the royal family or high government officials.
This number increased to 83 percent in fall of 2003.

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