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Prime minister selection process begins

By Khaled Neimat - Feb 11,2013 - Last updated at Feb 11,2013

AMMAN –– His Majesty King Abdullah on Monday tasked Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh to start consultations with the Lower House to select a prime minister, according to a Royal Court statement.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued their deliberations over the issue as the country embarked on the parliamentary government experience, seen as a milestone in the Kingdom’s democratisation process.

Deputies were also working on damage control after rifts appeared within the ranks of more than one House bloc.

The new mechanism of government formation reflects the King’s vision in establishing parliamentary governments with the aim of developing political life in the Kingdom, according to the statement.

Consultations with the House will take place at Basman Palace, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, said, adding that Tarawneh’s responsibilities will include meeting with all deputies, both independents and members of blocs, to listen to their views and convey them to the King.

Tarawneh will meet with the parliamentary blocs initially, in accordance with their official registration at the permanent office, starting with the largest bloc. After that, he will consult and meet with independent Lower House members.

King Abdullah on Sunday opened the 17th Parliament’s first session. In his Speech from the Throne, the King said that once deputies agree on a prime minister, he/she will then start consultations with House members on the formation of the Cabinet.

Deliberations

Deputies Monday engaged in attempts to curb damage and restore blocs and coalitions after the permanent office and speakership elections.

Kholoud Khatatbeh, who won her seat in parliament under the Women’s Quota in Ajloun Governorate, 70km northwest of Amman, said the 37-member Watan (Homeland) bloc managed to bring back all its members to mutual consensus, following a “misunderstanding” caused by a lack of coordination.

She declined to clarify the dispute within the largest House bloc, led by veteran MP and Deputy Lower House Speaker Khalil Atiyeh.

On Saturday, 27 members of the Democratic Gathering bloc, led by Yousef Qorneh (Amman, 2nd District) held a meeting to set guidelines for future coordination between its members, after their candidate MP Mustafa Shneikat, from the People list, lost the race for the Lower House speakership.

Veteran MP and former interior minister Saed Hayel Srour won the speaker’s post after receiving 80 votes.

Other blocs, including the 10-member Islamic Centrist Party (ICP), are expected to hold separate meetings for their respective members to set their agenda.

The blocs’ meetings are also key to the selection of the heads and members of the 14 permanent committees in the Lower House.

According to Khatatbeh, Watan, Future and the ICP blocs are expected to meet to discuss potential cooperation.

According to Abdul Munim Odat (Irbid, 1st District), these meetings are “crucial for the formation of the first parliamentary government”.

“MPs will discuss the available options and form clear decisions and coalitions.”

Institutionalising blocs

Several deputies on Monday called for amending the House’s internal regulations, calling for institutionalising blocs.

Deputies interviewed by The Jordan Times said that there is consensus over a tentative plan, but said that practical steps are needed to implement the changes and develop the way parliament works in general.

“Institutionalising the blocs’ work would be in the best interest of the country as a whole,” according to Odat.

The King also called for institutionalising the blocs’ work in a phone conversation with Srour, and congratulated him for becoming the speaker of the Lower House.

“After the 2011 constitutional amendments, it has become imperative to amend the Lower House’s rules of procedures,” Odat said.

Shneikat reiterated the same sentiment, calling the amendments of the Lower House’s regulations “a top priority at this stage of our work as deputies”.

“A draft of the amendments to the rules of procedures is ready and we need to put it in the hands of the Lower House for discussions and deliberations before endorsing it.”

After he was announced speaker, Srour said he “will work on amending the House’s rules of procedures as a first step to push reform forward”.

“It is our priority to start the reforms from the inside,” Srour said, adding that it is the issue with the highest priority in his agenda. 

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