By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah on Saturday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz but asked him to stay on as a caretaker premier until he designates a successor to oversee parliamentary elections on Nov. 10, state media said.
The monarch dissolved parliament last Sunday at the end of its four-year term in a move that under constitutional rules meant the government had to resign within a week.
A new government will pave the way for the November vote, as the country grapples with the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections over the last month for which the last government had been widely criticised.
King Abdullah appointed Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz in the summer of 2018 to defuse the biggest protests in years over tax increases sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce Jordan’s large public debt.
The monarch told Razzaz in a letter accepting his resignation that mistakes were made in the handling of the pandemic, echoing medical fears the health care system could come to the brink of collapse if the community spread gets out of control.
Jordan reported 1,099 new cases on Saturday bringing the cumulative total to 14,749 infections with 88 deaths.
The monarch hopes a wider shake-up and a new assembly can ease popular disenchantment over economic hardships worsened by the blow of COVID-19 and limits on civil and political freedoms under emergency laws.
The authorities have arrested hundreds of teacher activists after dissolving their opposition-led elected union last July and detained scores of dissidents for criticism on social media
Jordan’s economy is expected to shrink by 6% this year as it tackles its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.
The elections will however not usher political reforms because of a law that keeps intact a system that limits the representation of those of Palestinian origin in favour of native Jordanians who are the backbone of the country’s political establishment.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Giles Elgood, Hugh Lawson and Chizu Nomiyama)