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Jordan's new cabinet looks oddly familiar

Using cabinet ministers as scapegoats, only to replace them with a nearly identical lineup, is a well-worn tactic in Jordan. Still, many people appear cautiously optimistic that political reforms are nearing.

Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit (L) receives greetings from a tribal Bedouin leader in Amman February 10. Jordan's King Abdullah swore in a new government on Wednesday, led by former general Bakhit who has promised to widen public freedoms in response to anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

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Jordan swore in a new cabinet on Wednesday that includes five prominent leftist opposition figures and a vocal Islamist politician, but some protesters who last week spurred the king to sack the old government worry the new lineup smacks of the same old thing.

With demonstrations reducing to a simmer in recent days, however, there seems to be little urgency among citizens to challenge Jordan's ninth cabinet in the 11 years since King Abdullah II assumed the throne from his father.

Instead, a cautious optimism has taken the air, with the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party, expressing hope that political and electoral reforms are on the horizon after holding its first-ever talks with the king.

“He was a bit apprehensive, and we were a bit apprehensive. After 11 years, you would be!" says the front's deputy general secretary, Nimer Al-Assaf, who attended the meeting. "But I think after the talks, we felt that His Majesty is really sincere in what he said [about reform], and we encourage him. Because it is important to us, the stability of Jordan, and be sure we wouldn't do something to change that or threaten that.”

Only six ministers from the 27-member previous government maintained their posts, though those include some with important portfolios such as the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Planning Ministry, which handles foreign aid. The new slate includes well-respected leftists such as journalist Taher Adwan, as well as independent Islamist Abdelrahim Akur, a former leader of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

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