Jordanian Cabinet ministers resign before expected reshuffle

Justice and interior ministers step down after breaking their own coronavirus rules

Bisher Al Khasawneh being sworn in as Jordan's prime minister in October 2020. AFP
Bisher Al Khasawneh being sworn in as Jordan's prime minister in October 2020. AFP

Jordan’s Cabinet submitted its resignation on Wednesday, official media reported, in a technical move before a government reshuffle expected within days.

The change was expected after the justice and interior ministers were sacked for attending a banquet at a restaurant without observing rules to stop the spread of Covid-19, itself a breach of emergency law.

Government newspaper Al Rai said the 31 ministers “put their resignation in the hands of [Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh] in preparation for a ministerial alteration within days”.

Mr Khasawneh, a former diplomat, was appointed in October as coronavirus deaths and infections in the country of 10 million people rose sharply. He is Jordan’s 14th prime minister in the past two decades.

Pro-government media said the reshuffle would cover seven to eight ministers, most prominent among them is Health Minister Nazir Obeidat.

Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi, a former aide to King Abdullah, and Finance Minister Mohamad Al Ississ, who has good ties with Mr Khasawneh, are expected to remain in their positions.

Mr Obeidat, a veteran doctor, drew the ire of others in the system by criticising the large number of people ignoring Covid-19 rules.

He consistently warned that Jordan was vulnerable to a surge in infections, which started a month ago and promoted the authorities to bring back curfews and raise penalties for not wearing masks in public.

The king on Sunday accepted the resignation of Justice Minister Bassam Al Talhouni and Interior Minister Samir Mubaidin.

The two ministers are among the most senior civilian officials in charge of enforcing coronavirus rules.

They were seen at a restaurant in Amman last week, sitting at a large banquet close to other guests, against safety rules that prevent diners from massing at one table.

Updated: March 3, 2021 09:50 PM

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