Protests break out in Jordan's capital after fuel prices go sky high

Published September 2nd, 2012 - 08:40 GMT
Activists demostrate near the Interior Ministry Circle, central Amman, to protest government decision to hike fuel prices on Saturday (Photo by Khaled Oudat)
Activists demostrate near the Interior Ministry Circle, central Amman, to protest government decision to hike fuel prices on Saturday (Photo by Khaled Oudat)

Hundreds of activists demonstrated near the Interior Ministry Circle, central Amman, demanding the government to reverse its decision to raise fuel prices.

The rally ended peacefully.

The decision was also met with anger among political parties and civil society organisations, as Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said that the government had no choice but to increase prices to reduce the subsidy burden on the state budget.

Late Friday, authorities decided to raise the price of 90-octane gasoline from JD0.70 per litre to JD0.77, a 10 per cent rise, and the price of diesel from JD0.515 per litre to JD0.55. The price of 95-octane gas, which used to be sold at JD1 per litre, also went up by 1.5 per cent or 15 fils.

Motorists said they were shocked by Friday’s announcement, which was the second round of price increases in about four months (see related story).

Protests in Amman and other cities

Nearly 300 demonstrators, the majority of whom were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in addition to activists from other grass-roots movements, gathered near the Interior Ministry Circle, known in Arabic as Dakhliyah Circle, protesting price hikes and demanding the resignation of Tarawneh’s government.

Activists from Irbid joined the rally.

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Slogans at the protest, which saw a heavy presence of security forces at the area, also called for fighting corruption and urging the government to rollback on its decision to increase fuel prices.

Deputy overall leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Zaki Bani Rsheid said in a speech before demonstrators that the government’s policies lead to congestion in the street, criticising the government for drafting an elections law, which he said was against the will of Jordanians.

During the demonstration, a group of counter-protesters showed up at the scene shouting slogans against the activists.

The two groups did not clash as police forces managed to isolate around 50 counter-protesters in an area away from activists.

More protests took place in other cities such as Karak and Maan in addition to a sit-in outside the Prime Ministry in Amman that was staged by members of the Communist Party.

Tarawneh comments

At a meeting with a delegation from Islamic Centrist Party, Tarawneh said that the subsidy system for oil derivative prices is draining the state budget, which pushed the government to update fuel prices, particularly since oil prices in the international market are going up.

“No government in the world likes to increase prices but national interests prompted the government to address the issue of subsidy,” the premier added.

Opposition responds

In statements made available to The Jordan Times, political parties and NGOs condemned the government’s approach to handle the budget deficit from “the pockets of average Jordanians”, saying this government is taking the country into more tension.

Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, commented on Friday’s decision to increase fuel prices by saying that such a move would be the “last nail in the coffin of the government”.

The IAF described the government as “a government of crises”, calling for its ouster by all peaceful means.

“While Jordanians expect their government to work on easing the difficult financial and economic conditions they face, the government tends to solve its economic woes from the pockets of citizens,” party official Mohammad Zyoud was quoted in a statement as saying.

Abdullah Obeidat, president of the Jordan Engineers Association, said the current government is taking the country to the brink by the recent decision to raise prices of oil derivatives, stressing that government’s “failed”’ policies would lead to public outburst.

President of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights Abdul Karim Shraideh also expressed disappointment with the decision, stating that citizens will be hit by a series of price increases of other services and products due to the rise in oil derivative prices.

Calling on the government to rollback on its “unpopular” decision, Shraideh said if the Council of Ministers cannot find other solutions to fix state finances rather than resorting to pockets of people then they “better resign”. 

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