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JORDAN - Managing The Transition.

Abdullah has demonstrated his political skills by quickly moving to consolidate his position after becoming king. He rapidly named his half-brother, Hamzah, the eldest soon of Queen Noor, as Crown Prince. About a month later he named his wife, Rania, who is of Palestinian origin, as Queen. He is said to regard this as his core "team". The King himself admitted this in comments published in 'The New York Times Magazine' of Feb. 6, 2000, saying: "The team is now Abdullah, his wife, Rania, and Crown Prince Hamzah. That's the team".

Speculation about infighting among the royal family has also subsided, although sources say gossip will never end. Queen Noor, who is pleased to have her eldest son as the Crown Prince and to retain her title, has consciously adopted a lower profile. In the 'NYT Magazine' of Feb. 6, she is quoted as saying: ""Abdullah and Rania and the new people coming in need to make an independent way for themselves. I'm trying to maintain a low profile".

The same applies to some extent to former crown prince Hassan, whose main project now is to foster dialogue between the three Abrahamic religions. There does not appear to be any overt bitterness about the way in which Hassan was replaced virtually at the last minute as the successor. Abdullah has made it clear that Hassan would not revert to the role of being the second-most powerful man in Jordan. The former crown prince's staff has been halved from 80. But Hassan is quoted as saying in the 'NYT Magazine' that he has sworn an oath of loyalty to the king which he would never break.

All indications are that, on the level of the royal family, King Abdullah has managed the transition in a very effective manner. He has also shown a firm hand in dealing with the government. Less than a month after he became king, he swore in a new cabinet headed by Prime Minister Abdel Rauf Rawabdeh, a member of parliament who has served as a minister in several Jordanian administrations, replacing Fayez Tarawneh. Further demonstrating his confidence, the King approved a cabinet which included fourteen newcomers; eight ministers from the previous administration retained their posts. A political stalwart and former prime minister, Abdel Karim Kabariti, was earlier appointed as chief of the royal court.

In keeping with his father's tradition of changing government's frequently, another new government was appointed in June 2000, with Ali Abu Al Ragheb as prime minister, replacing Rawabdeh. The late King Hussein used to change governments on average once every 11 months. Another practice of his father which Abdullah has adopted is to travel incognito to government offices, hospitals and public facilities to observe the workings of the state. The results of these trips are critical reports submitted to the premier's office. Like the former King, Abdullah believes this will keep the bureaucrats on their toes. Such tactics also help boost the king's popularity among the general public.

The impression at present is that Abdullah is in full control, and that there are no prospects for instability likely to arise from within the royal family. The sons of King Hussein, from his four wives, are said to be united in their desire to see a stable Jordan in which the royal family remains strong and retains a tradition and lineage which dates back more than 14 centuries to Hashem, great-grandfather of the Prophet Mohammed. "The five brothers are like the five fingers of a hand," says Prince Ali, a 24-year-old half-brother of the king and his chief bodyguard, "if you're nice to us, it's an open hand. If you don't want to be nice to us, we become a fist." Apart from Hamzah and Ali, the other two male siblings of the king are full-brother Prince Faisal and half-brother Prince Hashem.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7JORD
Date:Sep 25, 2000
Previous Article:JORDAN - Leadership Transition.
Next Article:JORDAN - The Political Prospects.

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