The composition of Jordan’s new cabinet was just announced, more than two months after the election. It consists of 19 members including Prime Minister Ensour, none of whom are Members of Parliament, though Ensour has said he would seek to include MPs in the cabinet in the next several months. Of the members of the outgoing cabinet, four of them retained their posts. The list of new Cabinet Ministers is as follows:
- Prime Minister and Defence: Abdullah Ensour
- Interior and Municipal Affairs: Hussein Majali (new, merged portfolio)
- Justice and Prime Ministry Affairs: Ahmad Ziadat (new, merged portfolio)
- Foreign Affairs: Nasser Judeh (unchanged)
- Trade, Industry, Communications, and Supply: Hatem Halawani (unchanged, merged portfolios)
- Finance: Ummaya Tukan (new)
- Planning, Tourism, and Antiquities: Ibrahim Saif (new)
- Education: Mohammad Wahash (new)
- Higher Education and Scientific Research: Amin Mahmud (new)
- Water and Agriculture: Hazem Nasser (new, merged portfolio)
- Information, Political Development and Parliamentary Affairs: Mohammad Momani (new, merged portfolios)
- Health and the Environment: Mjalli Mheilan (new, merged portfolio)
- Social Development: Reem Abu Hassan (new)
- Housing and Public Works: Walid Masri (new)
- Energy: Malek Kabariti (new)
- Labour and Transport: Nidal Qatamin (unchanged, merged portfolio)
- Islamic Affairs and Awqaf: Mohammad Qudah (new)
- Culture: Barakat Awajan (new)
- Public Sector Development: Khleif Khawaldeh (unchanged)
The list of Ministers includes nine newcomers and five who have previously served as Ministers, and among the newcomers is one woman, Reem Abu Hassan, who will be serving as Minister of Social Development. The most noteworthy holdover from the previous government is Nasser Judeh, who gains an additional responsiblity for Expatriate Affairs in addition to Foreign Affairs.
This list of cabinet ministers includes many changes in the individuals who are serving in the government but it seems much less likely that it will lead to corresponding changes in policy. Despite the number of changes, many of them, despite their status as first-time ministers have served in other posts within the government. Many of them have served in think tanks, some of which were affiliated with the Jordanian government although others served at think tanks that were independent.
For example, Interior Minister Awad Khliefat (who had been mentioned as a candidate for PM following the election in addition to Ensour) was replaced by Public Security Department Director Hussein Majali. Majali was director of the Public Security Department during protests against the fuel prices, and while those protests were ongoing claimed that two Syrian nationals had been paid to protest to increase the size of crowds. The payments, he said were made by a political party, which does not show an attitude that is favorable to the parties that the government says it wants to encourage.
Finance Minister Ummaya Tukan is another appointee who cannot be considered a newcomer after having served as head of the Central Bank of Jordan from 2001 to 2010. Ibrahim Saif, the new Minister of Planning is one of the more interesting additions, becoming a Minister after several years at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author or coauthor of numerous publications related to the Jordanian economy.
Malik Kabariti will become Minister for Energy, a crucial portfolio as the government considers steps that might be taken regarding electricity prices. Prior to his appointment to the cabinet he was Chairman of the Board at the National Electric Power Company
Interestingly, Reem Abu Hassan, the women’s right’s activist who is the only woman appointed to the cabinet is the daughter-in-law of Ahmed Obeidat, the head of the National Front for Reform, as she is married to his son Thamer. Prior to her appointment she was head of the National Council for Family Affairs, a government-supported think tank.
Mohamed Momani is another Minister who comes from an academic or think tank background, as he is a media figure and academic who joins the cabinet from the Jordan Media Institute, which offers an MA program in journalism. Barakat Ojwan joins the cabinet from private practice as a physician and activist in Maan. His involvement in the cabinet begs an interesting question – given that the cabinet excludes MPs currently does this mean that he would have been excluded as well had he won a national list seat that he ended up losing?
The Ministry of Supplies (under incumbent Minister Hatem Hawalani) was brought back under the new cabinet, and other changes included dividing Education with Higher Education, and combining Higher Education with Scientific Research
The new government faces many challenges, including those such as electricity prices that were left over by the previous government, which may have been one issue that caused the process of making the current cabinet to take such a long time. The way that it addresses these challenges will set a precedent for the future of both the policies that are implemented in Jordan and the way future governments are formed. The process of selecting a cabinet took more than two months this time. Next election, it would be extremely damaging to the Jordanian reform process if these types of delays were to happen again.