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How to achieve meaningful political reform?

Jul 23,2019 - Last updated at Jul 23,2019

The main goal of political reform is to achieve a parliamentary government. Practically it means the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc should form the government. In light of not having achieved this goal since 1989, the logical question is why has a democratic reform that entails a parliamentary government not occurred since then? And what are the consequences for state-society? Since 2000, the topic of parliamentary government has appeared over a dozen times in His Majesty’s vision and has been more explicitly spelled out since 2012 in the King’s Discussion Papers. The ultimate goal of political reform is achieving a parliamentary government based on political parties who compete in general, periodic, free and fair elections. This leads to the rotation of power through the ballot box. 

Generally, Jordanian public opinion is positive towards democracy. However, the culture of political democracy  needs to be rooted through institutional mechanisms and behaviour. A recent representative study of Jordan’s population that surveyed 3,020 respondents, conducted by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, found that 84 per cent of Jordanians believe that it is important (64 per cent very important, 20 per cent important) for them to live in a country that is governed democratically. Jordanians assess the level of democracy in Jordan to be 5.62 out of 10, while they asses the level of democracy in Turkey and the US at about 7.5 out of 10. Jordanians assess the democratic development in Jordan with mixed views: 12 per cent believe that democracy in Jordan is developing rapidly, 52 per cent believe that it is developing slowly, 19 per cent believe that it is stagnant and 16 per cent believe that it is regressing. 

In light of the aforementioned, three-quarters of Jordanians believe that Jordan is governed in the interest of a few and a quarter believe that it is governed in the interest of the majority of people. Only 22 per cent of those whose age ranges between 25 and 34 believe that the country is governed in the interest of the majority. This percentage is the lowest among all age groups. Whereas 77 per cent of that age range believe that the country is governed in the interest of a few, the highest among all age groups. The situation differs slightly percentage-wise for the age group of 65+, where 37 per cent of them believe that it is governed in the interest of the majority, compared with 60 per cent believing that it is governed in the interest of a few. 

The percentage of those who believe that Jordan is governed in the interest of a few increases with the increase in the level of education. Citizens living in governorates are the least believing that Jordan is governed in the interest of the majority. The governorates of Maan, Karak, Tafileh, Madaba, Ajloun, Irbid and Balqa’s average was lower than the national average (27 per cent). Amman, Zarqa, Aqaba, Mafraq and Jerash on the other hand are above the national average.

In light of this empirical evidence, the state started various constructive initiatives addressing governance dynamics, but that is not enough to achieve the vision laid out repeatedly by the King. The work by the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs on reforming political parties’ funding system is a step in the right direction. 

 

The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. [email protected]

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