Thousands of demonstrators chanted the Arab Spring slogan “the people want the downfall of the regime” in Jordan on Friday, although a day billed as the culmination of three days of occasionally violent protests passed off largely in peace. The staunch U.S. ally has so far largely avoided the street unrest that has swept across the Middle East over the past two years, but a decision this week to raise fuel prices led to demonstrations that raised the spectre of long-term instability.
“Go down Abdullah, go down,” the main crowd of about 3,000 protesters chanted as police, some in riot gear, largely stayed away from crowd. “Raising prices is like playing with fire,” said one banner. Abdullah cancelled a visit to London he had been due to make next week, Britain’s Foreign Office said, without giving further details. Witnesses said other Friday protests also ended peacefully in the northern city of Irbid and in restive southern towns of Karak, Tafila and Maan, dispelling fears of wider civil unrest. “The government succeeded in frightening people of chaos and many people were discouraged by what they see as the alternative, as chaos,” said Lamis Andoni, a political analyst.
Protests had turned violent in impoverished towns across the kingdom since Wednesday when the government imposed a hike in the price of fuel. Unemployed youths and demonstrators have attacked police stations, closed roads with burnt cars and torched government buildings. One protester was killed on Thursday as a crowed tried to storm a police station in Irbid.