Middle East

Jordan profile - Leaders

Head of state: King Abdullah II

King Abdullah II, Jordan's monarch since 1999, has extensive powers: he appoints governments, approves legislation and is able to dissolve parliament.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption King Abdullah took over from his father, the late King Hussein

Over the past few years, he has been facing growing demands for political reform, and following the popular uprising in Tunisia which led to the flight of the president in January 2011, King Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed the first in a series of prime ministers to oversee the introduction of political change.

Previously he had backed a 10-year programme for political, social and economic reform and supported a plan for elected local councils. Conservative legislators were apprehensive about the proposals.

Balancing diplomatic interests with domestic demands has been tricky for King Abdullah. The country's peace agreement with Israel and its close ties with the US are unpopular with many Jordanians.

In the wake of the November 2005 suicide bombings in Amman, the king declared that security and stability were top priorities and called for a strategy to deal with the "changed circumstances".

His efforts to counter Islamist extremism have at times proved controversial. In September 2014 the king publicly joined the US coalition against Islamic State militants in Syria, a move which has prompted opposition in Jordan.

Abdullah is the eldest son of the late King Hussein and his British-born second wife, Toni. The couple divorced in 1972. Born in 1962 and educated in Britain and the US, he was named as crown prince shortly after his birth. The king transferred the title to his own brother, Hassan, in 1965, only to return it to Abdullah in 1999.

He is married to a Palestinian - an asset since most Jordanians are of Palestinian origin - and enjoys car racing, water sports and collecting antique weapons. He is a career soldier and once led Jordan's special forces.