JEDDAH: Thousands of Jordanian youth took to the streets for the third night in a row against tax rises and austerity measures — the biggest demonstrations since 2011.
In Amman, the Jordanian capital, police fired tear gas and blocked roads to stop protesters getting close to the prime minister’s office.
The protesters chanted angry slogans against Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki and called for his resignation. They say a new tax bill backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will hurt the poor and middle class and will further deteriorate their living conditions.
King Abdullah, who arrived to the country last night after participating in an international gathering in Albania, has called for compromise from all sides and said citizens should not be the only ones to bear the tough economic burden Jordan has been facing for years.
The protests also took place in other Jordanian cities from the north to the south, where police had reportedly used tear gas. In the southern town of Maan, protesters burned tires on highways and scuffles broke out with police, Reuters reported.
Jordanians have seen prices rise with salaries failing to keep up.
On Friday, the government raised the prices of fuel derivatives, triggering angry protesters to rally in masses. But King Abdullah revoked the decision, but this failed to defuse the tension and the protests continued.
On Saturday, a meeting at the House of Parliament brought together all rivals including House members, Prime minister Al-Mulki and representatives of professional associations in an attempt to reach an understanding over the controversial tax law.
The meeting ended with Al-Mulki determined not to withdraw the draft law, saying it was in the hands of members of parliament and it is up to them to decide its fate.
The government says it needs the money to fund public services and says the new tax bill will see higher earners pay more.
Earlier this year sales tax was increased and bread subsidies were scrapped as part of a plan to cut the country’s debt.
Al-Mulki said he hoped the reforms needed to get Jordan’s economy “back on track” would be complete by mid-2019.
Jordan has been hit by waves of refugees from neighboring countries. Millions of Palestinians, Syrians, and Iraqis are living in the Kingdom and King Abdullah has said that conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq has worsened Jordan’s financial situation.