3,000 Jordanians protest govt economic policies

More than 3,000 Jordanian trade unionists, Islamists and leftists held a sit-in on Sunday outside parliament to protest the government’s economic policies.

“We have been suffering in Jordan the same way Tunisians have been suffering,” Muslim Brotherhood leader Hammam Said told the protesters, referring to the popular revolt in Tunisia that ousted its strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On Saturday, about 50 Jordanian trade unionists held a sit-in outside the Tunisian embassy in Amman, shouting “Tunisia’s revolution will spread.”

“We must put an end to oppression and restrictions on freedoms and people’s will,” the Islamist leader said.

Protesters waving Jordanian and Islamist flags held banners with messages venting their anger at the government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, and demanding an end to “corruption” and “soaring prices.”

“For how long should we pay the price of corruption and theft,” read one of the banners.

The demonstrators chanted “enough of lies, we lost our future,” and called on Rifai to “listen to the voice of the people.”

“Jordan’s blood has been sucked,” they chanted.

“Poverty, starvation and unemployment, we’ve had enough,” and “Jordanians are on fire… the soaring prices are killing us,” were among the other slogans they chanted.

Parliament was in session during the sit-in with MPs discussing economic policies and the demands of the people.

MP Fawaz Zo’bi, from the northern city of Ramtha, left the meeting to give the protesters sandwiches.

“We did not get a satisfactory answer from the government on demands to lower the prices,” he told the protesters.

“This requires a new vote of confidence,” he added.

Rifai won an overwhelming vote of confidence from parliament last month after he formed a new 31-member government.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the kingdom on Friday to protest soaring prices and unemployment, despite a 169-million-dollar plan to improve their living condition.

But critics say the measures are not enough, complaining of rising unemployment and poverty as inflation last month hit 6.1 percent.

Unemployment is around 14 percent in the country of six million people, 70 percent of them under 30, but other estimates put the figure at 30 percent, while the minimum wage is 211 dollars a month.

Poverty levels are running at 25 percent in the desert kingdom, whose capital Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.