Violence and riots rocked several regions of Jordan on Thursday, with witnesses reporting parades with automatic weapons.
The unrest erupted after results of the country’s parliamentary elections were announced, embarrassing authorities who were unable to contain the uproar even during a state of emergency.
Jordanian Interior Minister Major General Tawfiq al-Halalmeh was reportedly asked to resign after the incident, with some sources saying he was dismissed.
Halalmeh’s resignation was announced Thursday by Prime Minister Bishr al-Khasawneh, who said it was necessary to bear “social responsibility.”
Khasawneh added during a press briefing that Jordan has “succeeded in implementing the constitutional entitlement by holding the parliamentary elections in an efficient manner and under an exceptional circumstance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Khasawneh also stressed that the government will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute alleged electoral violations, stressing that those involved will be held accountable.
The Jordanian government hoped to ensure a smooth parliamentary vote last Tuesday, as the kingdom endures a spike in COVID-19 infections, but contention grew after results were announced.
Many angry over their preferred candidates’ defeat rioted and committed acts of violence, including destroying public and private property. Supporters of victorious candidates and some candidates themselves celebrated by firing weapons in the air, a common but dangerous ritual in the kingdom that was made worse this year with the use of automatic weapons.
Jordanian King Abdullah II expressed anger at the unrest, writing on Twitter, “The unfortunate acts that we have seen after the electoral process are a clear violation of the law, and infringe on the safety and wellbeing of society. They do not echo the true awareness of the vast majority of our citizens across all provinces of the dear homeland.”
“We are a state of law, and the law applies to everyone and no one is excluded,” the king added.
Hundreds of people fired automatic weapons in to the air to rejoice over the results, raising questions as to how such firearms had been obtained and why authorities were not confiscating them.
The security services themselves seemed to be shocked by Jordanians’ reactions, with Public Security Director, Major General Hussein al-Hawatmeh saying the availability of ammunition and the presence of automatic weapons among Jordanians is a dangerous phenomenon.”How did they obtain these … and used thousands of them?” he asked.
“The Public Security has dealt with all the events that occurred, including gatherings and protests. Those involved were photographed and the incidents were documented. Every person who fired live bullets and violated the law will be held accountable. We will not tolerate any violator and we will bring them all to justice,” he said.
Hawatmeh announced the arrest of 344 individuals involved in the firing incidents and the seizure of 29 firearms and 478 vehicles.
“We will strike anyone who tries to offend the prestige of the state and anyone who tries to spread the coronavirus pandemic or violates the law. The violations will not go unpunished, and everyone who violates justice will be brought to justice,” he stressed.
He asked why one father thought it was acceptable to allow his 11-year old son to use a Kalashnikov machine gun.
Hawatmeh also took aim at some incoming parliament members, questioning how they could guarantee the rule of law when they had been the first to violate it – either by firing unauthorised weapons into the air or by spreading the pandemic through unchecked gatherings and rallies.
The election results were a great disappointment for the country’s partisan candidates, as only 17 deputies from political parties secured seats in parliament. The Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and the country’s most powerful political party, suffered a particularly harsh defeat, losing half of its electoral seats. The country’s civil current, represented by the Ma’an (Together) List, also performed poorly in a setback to their efforts to shake up the political scene.
Jordan’s tribal forces gained the lion’s share of seats, reinforcing old regional divides.
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