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Reform and rumblings in Jordan

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Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh stepped down from his post yesterday amid a controversy about a proposed new election law that has roiled the kingdom, with supporters of the old way of doing things squaring off against those demanding a move towards democracy.

Mr. Khasawneh, a long time adviser to Jordan's royal family, who helped negotiate the country's peace deal with Israel in 1994, was appointed to his post last October in an attempt to mollify growing street protests demanding an opening of the political system.

The election law he's been working on was intended to deliver that opening. But he's been hemmed in on two sides: one, by tribal leaders close to the court and the security services worried that it would end up delivering power into the hands of Jordan's opposition. And two, by the opposition, which has complained loudly that the new law doesn't go far enough.

The law has stalled. And now Khasawneh, who reached out to Islamist politicians, started corruption investigations against high officials, and promised a fairer election law soon after taking office, is gone.

Marc Lynch wrote of Khasawneh's resignation that "the last straw, it appears, was the disappointing new election law which failed to respond to long-standing complaints by political activists, parties, and outside analysts... The sudden resignation of the respected jurist should draw renewed attention to Jordan's political stability – and raise important questions about its willingness and ability to reform."

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