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Uneasy days lie ahead

Mar 11,2019 - Last updated at Mar 11,2019

Just a few years after the end of Jordan’s spring, it seems that the country is once again polarised between two competing visions for how to get the country off the hook.

The top-down approach argues that for Jordan to navigate through the uncertainties of the region, reforms are to be implemented under the supervision of the state. Supporters of this approach believe that His Majesty King Abdullah is ideally situated to lead such reforms. Explicit in their argument is their deep belief that Jordan would run the risk of creating negative environment if it is left to the wheel of fortune. A former prime minister told me that the public is divided over what constitutes reform. He argues that reform means different things to different people. Therefore, Jordan is way better off if the King steps in and leads the process of reform.

On the other hand, there is another vision with regard to reforms. The first argument one would hear from representatives of this vision is that years, if not decades, of state-led reform paid poorly. Not only is Jordan far from being a fully functioning democracy, but Jordanians also have yet to be politically empowered. The top-down approach has only aggravated the sense of economic insecurity. Worse, the majority of Jordanians have little faith in any official efforts.

As a matter of fact, the debate is far from being conclusive. Passionate debate has raged recently over how to put Jordan back on track. Interestingly, the current government has been obsessed with day-to-day business. To be sure, the prime minister has too much on his plate and, therefore, he only pays lip service to the need to effect reform. I suspect that the government will not introduce genuine reform to politically empower Jordanians.

Casting aside the internal differences over how to fix the situation, the current political status quo is, to say the least, untenable. If things continue unchecked, we run the risk of having riots. Razzaz’ government has become part of the problem. The level of trust in the government hit a new low with the leakage of documents and irregularities with regard to employment. Continuing with the same tools, as if nothing has happened, is a recipe for an escalation that no one seeks. Sadly, the entrenched ruling elite are in denial. They are still in no position to comprehend the changes that the society has undergone over the last few years.

That being said, the only one who can mitigate the situation is the King himself. But for him to be able to assure Jordanians, the government should either resign or do a major cabinet reshuffle. If the latter option is to be embraced, then the state, not the prime minister, should think thoroughly of personalities that can restore part of the public’s lost trust.

It remains to be seen what the King is going to do to reverse the tide. He has what it takes to fix the situation before it is too late. However, the most important point to remember is that Jordanians are looking for an immediate tangible solution, not promises. 

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