Jordan’s King Abdullah swears in new government led by Khasawneh to speed reforms

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Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday swore in a new government led by veteran diplomat Bisher al-Khaswaneh that will seek to accelerate IMF-backed reforms as the economy faces its sharpest contraction in decades due to the coronavirus crisis.

British-educated al-Khasawneh, 51, was appointed on Wednesday to replace Omar al-Razzaz, at a time of rising popular discontent about worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws to contain the pandemic.

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The new premier, who comes from a family that has long held senior political posts, has spent most of his public career as a veteran diplomat and peace negotiator with Israel with a last stint as palace adviser.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Finance Minister Mohamad al-Ississ, who oversees the country’s reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kept their posts in a 32-member cabinet dominated by a mix of technocrats and conservative politicians who held sway in previous governments.

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The new government faces an uphill task to revive growth in an economy that is expected to shrink by around 6 percent this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.

Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections due on November 10. The contest will take place under an electoral law that marginalizes the main Islamist opposition and independent political parties to maintain a majority of pro-government deputies.

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