AMMAN Jordan's Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh resigned on Thursday after barely six months in office, in a surprise move that politicians said followed an extended power struggle with the powerful security services.
King Abdullah, who appointed Khasawneh in October to placate protesters inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, accepted Khasawneh's resignation, state television said.
He was replaced by Fayez al-Tarawneh, a U.S.-educated economist who served as prime minister for several months from 1998 to 1999, when Abdullah came to the throne following the death of his father, King Hussein.
Khasawneh, 62, was a respected international judge who pledged to restore trust in the government after months of protests over rising living costs and stalled political reform in the resource-poor, pro-Western kingdom of 7 million.
He had been expected to govern until a parliamentary election due by the end of the year. But politicians said his six months in office were marked by a struggle with the intelligence services over the powers of his office.
"The conflict between the centres of power within the Jordanian state has been resolved in favour of the security services," Islamist politician Zaki Bani Rusheid said after Khasawneh's sudden resignation.
Khasawneh's proposed election law drew fire from many sides. Tribal parliamentarians felt it favoured Islamists, while some Islamists were unhappy because its proposed party list system might have curbed the number of seats they could win.
Khasawneh was a former chief of the royal court and a legal adviser to the Jordanian team that negotiated a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
A minister who declined to be named said he submitted his resignation while outside the country in response to a decision taken in his absence to extend a parliamentary session in which he was likely to face further criticism over the draft law.
"It was a surprise move. The prime minister was unhappy about the decision to extend parliament," the minister said.
Tarawneh's appointment makes him Jordan's fourth prime minister in 14 months. Khasawneh's brief period in office was preceded by the equally short premiership of Marouf al-Bakhit.
Bakhit was appointed in February last year, but the conservative former army general was sacked eight months later in a move to address calls for faster reforms in the kingdom.
Politicians say King Abdulllah has been forced to take only cautious steps towards democracy, constrained by the tribal power base which sees reforms as a threat to its political and economic benefits.
Some recent protests calling for faster reforms have criticised the royal family, a rare event in a country where the king has long been revered and held above politics.
There has been unprecedented criticism from tribal areas that have traditionally formed the backbone of support for the Hashemite royal family and provide the bulk of manpower for the army and security forces.
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Myra MacDonald)