The handout picture released by Jordanian Royal Palace shows King Abdullah II (C) and Crown Prince Hussein (L) talking to newly-appointed Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh during a swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Amman on October 12, 2020. (Via Reuters)
Jordanís King Abdullah II has sworn in new Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh and his cabinet as the kingdom is grappling with its worst economic crisis aggravated by the coronavirus outbreak.
The swearing-in ceremony took place on Monday at the Husseiniya Palace in Amman, where Khasawneh vowed to pay special attention to the COVID-19 spread.
He also pledged to enhance health services and develop "a new epidemiological monitoring and investigation strategy to cope with the communal transmission phase of the virus."
British-educated Khasawneh, 51, has spent most of his public career as a veteran diplomat and negotiator with Israel with a last stint as palace adviser. He was appointed last week as the Jordanian premier following the resignation of his predecessor, Omar al-Razzaz.
In his letter designating Khasawneh, King Abdullah said the formation of the government comes at an "exceptional time," calling on the new administration to improve the healthcare system.
In response, Khasawneh expressed his resolve to "address the coronavirus epidemic by balancing the citizensí health and sustainability of work and production and reducing the consequences on the national economy."
He will oversee the November 10 parliamentary polls under an electoral law, which marginalizes the main opposition party - the Islamic Action Front - and independent political parties to keep a majority of pro-government deputies.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Finance Minister Mohamad al-Ississ, who oversees Jordanís reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kept their posts in a 32-member cabinet dominated by a mix of technocrats and conservative politicians.
Jordanís economy is expected to shrink by 6 percent this year, with unemployment and poverty worsened by the outbreak, which has so far infected 26,073 people and killed 207 others.
Outgoing prime minister Razzaz was appointed by King Abdullah in the summer of 2018 to defuse the biggest protests in years over tax increases pushed by the IMF to reduce Jordanís large public debt.
He, however, faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic and use of virus-related restrictions to curb freedom and right of expression.
In July, hundreds of teacher activists were arrested after dissolving their opposition-led elected union while scores of dissidents were detained for criticism on social media.