Jordan’s King Abdullah praises army and security in 'difficult circumstances'

Jordanian king inaugurates new parliament elected amid coronavirus pandemic

King Abdullah praised Jordan’s security apparatus, which played a main role this year in the official coronavirus response and a tougher line against dissent, in an address to the first session of the new parliament on Thursday.

Trust in government organisations “is best reflected in public confidence in the Jordanian armed forces and security agencies, and their efficiency and competence”, the monarch said.

“We, therefore, reaffirm the importance of supporting our armed forces and security agencies, who set an example in sacrifice,” he said.

“To them, current and retired personnel, we give our appreciation and support."

He told newly elected legislators that combating corruption remains a priority amid the pandemic, as well as “safeguarding the national economy”.

Jordan has been under emergency law since March, with officials saying it is needed to deal with the coronavirus.

The authorities renewed a curfew last month after a spike in coronavirus deaths and infections, relying on increased visibility of the security forces.

In July security forces shut down the teachers’ union and arrested its leaders, who are opposed to the government.

Official media said financial wrongdoings by management in the 100,000 member union were the reason behind the moves against it.

Security forces have also arrested people who made comments against the system on social media. Bans on assembly related to the coronavirus have also contributed in ending relatively small protests and sit-ins in Amman.

The king, the highest authority in Jordan, said “never have difficult circumstances prevented us from continuing the democratisation process”.

The parliamentary election held last month “is testament to the determination and strong will of Jordanians”, he said.

The authorities came under widespread criticism for going ahead with the poll for the largely nominal parliament as coronavirus cases and deaths rose sharply.

Turnout was a record low of less than 30 per cent. In the aftermath, members of Jordan's clans ignored the curfew to celebrate the results or to protest against their candidates losing, prompting the king to appoint a new interior minister last week

Latest official data shows that 3,200 people died from the coronavirus in Jordan, with 250,000 infections recorded in the country of 10 million people.

Unemployment is officially at a record high of 23.9 per cent, and the finance ministry is forecasting the economy to contract by 3 per cent this year. The economy grew 2 per cent in 2019.

But the king said Jordan can still capitalise on “our promising opportunities”. citing agriculture, and the country’s relatively advanced pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing, and other industrial sectors.