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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05AMMAN3551 2005-05-05 15:56:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

OPPOSITION TO NEW CABINET IN PARLIAMENT REMAINS

Tags:   PGOV KDEM MARR EFIN PTER JO 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

051556Z May 05
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 003551 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2015
TAGS: PGOV KDEM MARR EFIN PTER JO
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION TO NEW CABINET IN PARLIAMENT REMAINS
FIRM

REF: A. AMMAN 03252


B. AMMAN 2973

C. AMMAN 2969

Classified By: CDA David Hale for Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

-------
SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) Opposition to King Abdullah's new reform cabinet
continues to grow. Rumor mongers point to the cabinet's many
reformist ministers and conclude the U.S. must have pressured
the King to appoint them. PM Badran is proceeding with his
public and private outreach efforts to shore up support for
his cabinet. Generally positive meetings with political
party leaders and the Jordan Bar Association were followed by
a much more contentious meeting with 45 traditionalist MPs
who remained firm in their demand that Badran get rid of his
economic team (headed by Finance Minister Bassam Awadallah).
Lower House Speaker Abdul Hadi Majali predicted a very rough
road ahead for the Badran cabinet, which could slow down
legislation of interest to us, including ratification of the
article 98 agreement and the improved anti-money laundering
law. End Summary.



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PM SEEKS OUT ALLIES


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2. (U) In an effort to drum up support for his beleaguered
cabinet, PM Badran has continued his campaign of meetings
with prominent Jordanians (ref A). On April 27, for example,
he met with another group of political party leaders, saying
that parties were the "cornerstone" of the country's
political development process. He further pledged to
reconsider the poorly-received draft law on political parties
submitted by the previous government. The following day,
Badran met with Jordan Bar Association president Saleh
Armouti and members of the association's Islamist-dominated
board of directors. Armouti described the meeting to
reporters as "positive and warm," and expressed appreciation
for the new government's efforts to enhance cooperation with
civil society institutions. According to the press, Badran
reiterated in the meeting that his cabinet was committed to
implementing political reform and was open to revising a
controversial bill that would alter regulation of
professional associations (a parliamentary committee is
reviewing it at present). On April 31, Badran told a
gathering of journalists that he was prepared to reshuffle
his cabinet if necessary to include ministers from the south
of the country. While maintaining that geographic
representation was not a constitutional requirement, he
nonetheless recognized it as a "political norm" that he was
unable to adhere to when forming the government due to "time
limitations."



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MPs STAND FIRM


--------------------------





3. (C) Badran's greatest challenge remains winning over the
growing number of traditionalist MPs (numbering 45 of the
lower chamber's 110 deputies) who have publicly pledged to
withhold their votes of confidence in the new government. In
a May 3 meeting with these MPs that was described as "hot and
stormy," MP contacts report that Badran did his best to take
a conciliatory position. He assured the MPs that he had
taken note of their concerns, promised to try to resolve
their complaints, and asked that they evaluate his government
based on its programs and plans, rather than on its
composition. The MPs were not appeased. One after another,
they demanded that Badran either resign as PM or reshuffle
the cabinet to sack its economic team, led by Finance
Minister Bassam Awadallah, on the grounds that these
ministers were "proven failures" and hopelessly out of touch
with the plight of "real Jordanians." MP Bassam Haddadin
(Christian East Banker, Zarqa) also took a swipe at Badran's
reformist credentials, complaining that Badran had not
expressed any ideas on political reform, but was instead
"hiding" behind ideas to come from a "velvet committee"
(i.e., the National Agenda commission).



--------------------------


THE SPEAKER SPEAKS


--------------------------





4. (C) In a private discussion on May 1 with Charge, Lower
House Speaker Abdul Hadi al-Majali (East Banker, Kerak)
ticked off the motives for the strong opposition to the
cabinet. First, it had gone against deeply ingrained
tradition by omitting a minister from Kerak, a "pillar" of
the country (along with Salt and Irbid). The fact that it
did not include anyone from the rural Badia only made matters
worse. Second, Badran's appointment from seemingly out of
nowhere was a surprise that made advance consultation with
MPs (which did not happen) even more imperative. Third, MPs
loathed Bassem Awadallah for his perceived disdain of
legislative oversight; they saw his appointment as a slap in
the face of parliament as an institution. Salah Bashir
(former Justice Minister and now Minister for Government
Performance) was also a lightning rod for criticism because
of his alleged disrespectful behavior toward MPs. Fourth,
widespread belief that the U.S. applied pressure on King
Abdullah during his most recent trip to Washington to create
the current reform government had aroused considerable
resentment among MPs.



5. (C) Majali also criticized Badran for having no program
or agenda, just headlines in the newspapers. He noted that
the cabinet had promised to implement the National Agenda to
be announced later this year, but asked "what is the
government's platform in the meantime?" Majali recommended
that the government hold off on a summer vote of confidence
in parliament (which would require an extraordinary session)
as long as possible, probably until July, so that it could
address MPs' concerns. Majali told reporters on May 3 that
it would be "difficult to control the Lower House" during an
extraordinary session if the government tried to exclude a
vote of confidence from the session agenda.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (C) PM Badran has little room to maneuver in the face of
entrenched opposition by traditionalists to his cabinet.
Appointing new ministers from the south might dispel some
complaints, but it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness
while failing to satisfy demands for Awadallah's ouster.
Courting the support of the Islamists, including the Islamic
Action Front (IAF), to circumvent the traditionalists remains
an option, but carries associated political risks (ref A).
Several of the best informed ministers, and targets of the
MPs' ire, such as Bassam Awadallah and Marwan Muasher, see a
simple solution: since they accuse outgoing GID chief Saad
Khayr of whipping up the opposition, it is up to Khayr to
turn it off again. No matter what course of action Badran
takes, resentment against alleged U.S. meddling in the
cabinet selection process could hinder quick action on our
legislative priorities in parliament (e.g., passage of an
anti-money laundering law and ratification of the article 98
agreement).



7. (U) Minimize considered.
HALE