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Razzaz and tribal politics

Feb 11,2019 - Last updated at Feb 11,2019

Thus far, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s government has not measured up to the people’s expectations. Polls show how the level of optimism in this government has fallen by 30 points in the first 100 days since Razzaz formed his government. By all yardsticks, the government has failed to come up with policies that could help ameliorate the economic situation. On the contrary, Razzaz’s economic policies have further impoverished wider sectors of Jordanians.

This article is not about the performance of the government, though. Indeed, even supporters of Razzaz have a hard time convincing anyone of the ability of the government to make a positive difference. Many of them write to find excuses for his poor performance. Nor is this article about how the liberal agenda embraced by Razzaz hit hard the Jordanian economic situation. But it is about the tribal mindset of many of those who support Razzaz personally.

Casting aside all attempts to portray Razzaz as if he is being undermined by some forces, one should not forget that he is the premier and he must take responsibility of his government’s wrongdoings. It follows that defending Razzaz by like-minded people, the isolated and unpopular liberal camp, is not different than defending any politician by his tribesmen. In both cases, they put their sub-national identity first.

Let us get to the bottom of the issue. Many of Razzaz’ supporters depict him as soft-spoken, intelligent and clean person. Personally, I agree. But these characteristics apply to tens of thousands of Jordanians. To fill the bill of premiership, it takes more than that. The problem with many of Razzaz’ liberal supporters lies in their double standards. On the one hand, they criticise tribalism. And I think they are right to do so. But on the other hand, they defend Razzaz simply because he belongs to their camp. Moreover, they justify his inability to come up with a different approach by saying the “conservatives” undermine him! In other words, those liberal fans of Razzaz, the liberal tribe, are willing to defend him no matter what. Worse, they will continue fearmongering to help Razzaz survive no matter how far down the rabbit hole it takes them.

What strikes me more in the discourse of many supporters of Razzaz is their willingness to trackback from their earlier calls for genuine democracy. They tend to overlook the fact that Razzaz was not elected. Nor has he ever contested in elections at any level. He was appointed to his current position to continue with the same political and economic approach. I do not think that some of Razzaz’ supporters need to go back to school to take democracy 101, but I think they should be aware that their position is in essence tribal and exposed.

In a nutshell, Razzaz is no different from previous premiers. The appointment of four of the brothers and sister of MPs is a statement about how the Razzaz-led government is simply the same as the ones before. One more time: being a soft-spoken, down-to-earth, intelligent and clean politician does not make a strong prime minister. In my opinion, a strong prime minister is one who takes responsibility and does not look for excuses.

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