There is little job security if you are prime minister of Jordan. King Abdullah II, scion of Jordan's Hashemite throne, has sacked four of them in the last two years – he's also managed to survive the series of revolutions that have spread across the region over the same period.
On Thursday Abdullah dissolved parliament again and called for new national elections before the end of the year, a move clearly timed to sap any significance from a 50,000-strong Muslim Brotherhood (MB) rally planned for today.
Abdullah, seen as a moderniser and close ally of the west, has managed to survive the Arab spring revolts despite an economic recession. Small protests began in Jordan in March of 2011, but the government headed them off with quiet crackdowns and a billion-dollar increase in subsidies to powerful local constituencies.
But the danger to Abdullah's throne doesn't come just from an Islamist opposition calling for accelerated political freedoms: it's also from the throne's traditional well of support – Jordan's East Bank tribes. To shore up tribal and Bedouin support they are given privileges, particularly in political representation. In 2010, East Bankers were awarded 85% of the seats in parliament even though they're a minority. But now there are strong indications that this community is increasingly discontented with the king – over rural poverty, modernisation's effects on Bedouin traditions, and ultimately a fear of marginalisation (the king's wife, it is noted, is Palestinian-born).
Add to that other demographic complexities, and the situation looks more fragile. Most of the country's six million inhabitants are Palestinian, several hundred thousand more are Iraqi refugees, and now tens of thousands are displaced Syrians. The Palestinian urban poor are restless. Mix that with an emboldened Islamist front, disgruntled East Bankers, and the threat of militarisation in the north, due to the Syrian civil war next door, and you could have something combustible: all eyes are on Jordan today.
Read more: Nicolas Pelham's New York Review of Books feature last year on Jordan and the Arab spring is a must-read.