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The King’s message

Feb 06,2018 - Last updated at Feb 06,2018

It makes sense that King Abdullah is somehow gobsmacked by the fact that both the government and the parliament have not fully succeeded in doing their jobs in a responsible and responsive manner. Not surprisingly, the majority of Jordanians see eye to eye with the King on this particular point. Successive polls conducted by the Centre for Strategic Studies underscore this reality.

In his meeting last week with a number of students at the University of Jordan, the King made it perfectly clear that people should have a say in politics. He went as far as asking people to put pressure on the government and the parliament so that they can live up to the expectations. The King engaged the issue with firmness and dignity, but without hectoring or condescension.

That being said, the road to reform is not like searching for a needle in a haystack. In fact, the only way to get everyone in Jordan out of a no-win situation is by empowering people to participate in politics. The King knows that very well. For this reason, he asked people to revisit his discussion papers, which provides for an excellent start for a measured and safe process of reform.

It is difficult to take issue with the contents of the King’s discussion papers. Hence, it is not like the winners of the status quo have little understanding of the opaque politics of Jordan. The problem is, and here lies the crux of the matter, that both the government and the parliament believe that they can outlast the demand for reform. Over the last few years, the issue of genuine reforms took a back seat.

I am personally not optimistic with regard to the issue of reform. The government and the parliament will always get cold feet about this important subject. 

Therefore, I can understand when the King asked people to put some pressure from below on both the government and the parliament. Jordanians took to the street last week in a protest against the government and, of course, against the parliament. Tensions reached new heights on Friday as a result of the spread of protests in various cities of Jordan. If things continue unchecked we run the risk of giving birth to a wave of protests that could be disruptive.

Is there a way out? Absolutely! The King can use his constitutional prerogative and dissolve the parliament and fire the government. But this is hardly enough. State institutions needs to work day in day out to perfect politics in Jordan. Needless to say, the first step toward fixing politics is to secure a more responsive parliament. Doing this entails modifying the electoral law to one that give better representation.

 

I argue that the implied message of the King was a farfetched one. There is little hope to get out of this deadlock if the trust gap between the people and state institutions is not addressed in a meaningful and rational way. Any effort that overlooks this fundamental issue is a beating around the bush.

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