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Constitutional changes aimed to enhance political reforms — PM

By Omar Obeidat - Aug 15,2014 - Last updated at Aug 15,2014

AMMAN – Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Thursday said the two amendments to the Constitution his government requested a day earlier were intended to push forward political reforms in the country and enhance democratic practices. 

The first constitutional amendment entails vesting the power to appoint the chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff and director of the General Intelligence Department (GID) solely in the King –– the Supreme Commander of the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF), without having the nomination of the prime minister as is the case now.

The second amendment is needed to expand the authority of the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) to supervise and manage all national elections, including non-parliamentary polls. 

At a meeting with chief editors of daily newspapers and columnists at the Prime Ministry on Thursday, the premier explained the reasons for the proposed amendments, which he described as an ambitious democratic step aiming to enhance democracy. 

Currently, the Constitution stipulates that the King appoints the chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff and GID director upon recommendations by the Cabinet, and Ensour said giving sole authority to the head of the state would ensure a legitimate separation of powers.

Jordan is heading towards parliamentary governments formed by political parties so the main objective of such an amendment would keep the army away from engaging in politics and prevent politicians from intervening in army issues, he explained. 

“This measure comes in preparation for democratic reforms the Kingdom is going to see in the future,” the premier told the gathering. 

“For example, if a leftist or an Islamic party formed the government in the future, this amendment would prevent them from causing instability in the army,” Ensour said. 

On the second amendment regarding the IEC authority, the premier noted that Article 67, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution says: “An independent commission shall be established by a law to supervise the parliamentary electoral process and to administer it in all of its stages, and to supervise any other elections decided by the Council of Ministers.”

This paragraph indicates that the commission can only administer the parliamentary elections, while other polls, like municipal or the future decentralisation elections, can only be supervised by it. 

The amendment needed is to enable the commission to administer all general elections in the Kingdom according to the law. 

The premier said the amendments will be discussed during the Parliament’s extraordinary session, scheduled to start Sunday. 

 

Defence Ministry 

 

In a letter to Ensour Wednesday, King Abdullah directed the government to activate the Ministry of Defence to assume the political, economic, legal and logistic functions related to national defence.

The measure will be part of “a crucial new phase of reforms — based on the principles of transparency, enhancing popular participation and sharing national responsibilities — to add to the major qualitative reforms achieved over the past three years”, said the letter.

The ministry will take over the non-military logistic, administrative, investment and development duties, and those not associated with specialised professional military domain that the General Command of JAF currently undertakes.

Its envisioned role will also include developing the state’s general defence capabilities and managing military resources more efficiently.

Ensour explained that activating the ministry will need legislative amendments only and does not require constitutional change. 

The army is in charge of several responsibilities in addition to its main duty to defend the nation’s security, the prime minister said, adding that JAF runs several entities such as the Royal Medical Services, the Royal Geographical Centre and military consumer corporations in addition to affiliated companies and other emerging duties. 

As these duties expand, they draw the army’s focus away from the defence mission, he said, elaborating that these secondary responsibilities would be part of the Defence Ministry’s mandate. 

“We want the army to focus on its defence duties of protecting the country’s security and borders,” he added. 

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