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Jordan king seeks 'consensus' on PM

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

King Abdullah II on Sunday told newly elected MPs that he seeks to reach "consensus" with them before naming a prime minister, and hailed the "historic transformation" towards parliamentary government in Jordan.

"We will start... this new approach by consulting over the government's formation with the lower house and parliamentary blocs as they take shape, in order to reach consensus that leads to the designation of a prime minister," he told the opening of parliament.

King Abdullah said the premier should in turn consult parliamentary blocs and other forces as he selects his cabinet, seeking confidence "based on a policy statement resulting from the consultation process, and on four-year programmes."

"You are also expected to shoulder your responsibility towards the success of this historic transformation towards parliamentary government and its development," the king said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur submitted his cabinet's resignation to the king on January 29, six days after tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen swept a general election boycotted by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and others.

"If a coalition of blocs that enjoys the support of the house's majority emerges, the consultation and government formation processes will be quick and smooth," the king said.

"In the absence of a majority coalition, on the other hand, this process will take more time and effort. This is a fundamental fact of parliamentary democracy."

The king, who has vowed to pursue democratic reforms and reach out to groups such as the Brotherhood, urged parliament to "serve as an incubator of national dialogue" and begin extensive talks with local communities and political forces.

Analysts have said loyalist MPs would resist pressure for much-needed real political reform.

The Islamists have said the king's plans for a parliamentary government fall far short of true democratic change and insist he should have no say in naming a premier. They also insist that they will not join the government.

"The speech needs to be translated into practical steps in reality, on the ground," said Hamzeh Mansur, chief of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Brotherhood.

"This parliament is like other past parliaments. It will not come up with anything new. And the idea of parliamentary government is still elusive. Again, we need a process of dialogue led by the king himself."

King Abdullah admitted that the election was held under "a law that was not ideal, although it earned as much consensus as was possible.

"Therefore, I call for revisiting this law based on an assessment of your experience and for reviewing the electoral system in a way that wins consensus."

Meanwhile, the 150-seat lower house of parliament elected veteran MP and former interior minister Saad Hayel Srur as speaker for a one-year term after winning 80 votes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130210/jordan-king-seeks-consensus-pm-1