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The fall of Parliament

Jan 07,2019 - Last updated at Jan 07,2019

The economic crunch that squeezes Jordan will be particularly acute this year. Parliament has just endorsed one of the worst budgets in recent years. The irony is that many members of Parliament voiced their anger at the budget but they did not hesitate to cast their votes in favour of the bill, while the majority of Jordanians accuse the government of being incapable of handling the economic challenges, the fact remains that Parliament has contributed to no small amount to the perpetuation of the dire economic situation.

In one of the most recent public opinion polls, the standing of Parliament hit a low point of 14 per cent. I argue that Jordanians, on the whole, do not trust Parliament. The fact that Jordanians take to the street is a statement of their dissatisfaction, not only with official policies, but also with Parliament. The public has yet to see a Parliament that truly represents them and express their priorities in words and deeds.

In private, many MPs argue that Jordanians do not trust Parliament and that there is nothing that the legislature can do to restore the public trust. One former MP told me that the best way for MPs to continue was with the same performance, regardless of what the public would say. Others even went as far as complaining that Jordanians have become self-appointed critics! Perhaps, some Jordanians, driven by their frustration, would criticise all institutions. But that does not mean in any way, shape or form that Parliament is doing a good job. When the vast majority of Jordanians state that Parliament is neither efficient nor effective, then I think the current Parliament has lost all reason to survive.

In politics, perception is as important as reality. The current Parliament is seen as the most conforming to the government. Like all of the legislatures elected since 1993, the current Parliament is very weak. It has yet to stand up to the government’s economic policies that have only impoverished Jordanians. In a proper functioning democracy, the role of Parliament is not to rubber stamp whatever the government comes up with. In fact, Parliament is a key component of the checks and balance system.

In practice, the current Jordanian government does not take that Parliament seriously. Prime Minister Omar Razzaz well understands that economic policies are something that Parliament cannot oppose and survive at the same time. Therefore, supporting the government is a way of survival for Parliament. But that does not apply to the public. Indeed, the prime minister understands that the street can bring his government down, but not Parliament.

Unfortunately, the compliance of Parliament has encouraged the government to implement policies that have been part of the economic problem. Put differently, Parliament fails to balance the government and it is not expected to make a difference in politics. Against this backdrop, many Jordanians seek to dissolve Parliament.

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