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Confidence session must showcase democratic civic alternative to military authoritarianism

Jul 07,2018 - Last updated at Jul 07,2018

This week, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz will present his government’s plan to parliamentarians and seek their vote of confidence to lead the executive authority for the next two years, at which point Parliament will itself be put to a confidence vote by the people as part of the next national elections.

I have no doubt that intensive negotiations are already under way between the government and parliamentarians to pave the way for a smooth confidence session and that we can confidently say that much of the escalated chatter and criticism of Cabinet ministers that we are witnessing now is part of the “tactical pressure” that typically accompanies such negotiations.

But having allowed a margin for the political bartering and the pressure tactics that necessarily accompany them, we must not lose sight of the critical issues that face the government and parliament, and the real livelihood and political concerns of the Jordanian people. Those, under no circumstance, should be allowed to be swept under the carpet as the deals between the government and Parliament are struck. 

Both the government and Parliament should have their eyes focused squarely on the political turnaround, and therefore the poignant lessons, of last month that brought Razzaz’s government to the Fourth Circle. There should be no doubt that the state of peace between government and people that we have today is delicate and is effectively an undependable truce contingent on signs of real change. As Parliament and government orchestrate this week’s confidence vote they should both remember the risks that they will be taking if the confidence week does not lay the foundational building blocks of trust between people on the one hand and the executive and legislative authorities on the other. 

While Jordanians will continue to assign the highest priority to the security and stability of the country, specifically against risks brought on by regional and international developments, the government and Parliament will be expected to elevate the values associated with a civic state, including equality before the law, citizenship rights, empathetic and smart economic policies and solutions, as well as good governance based on respect for the authorities they lead and the institutions that are mandated to serve the people under the umbrella of these authorities. Personal political survival, therefore, must not be the yardstick of success for either this week. 

What is at risk is the credibility of the regime that promised reform, the government that declared that it comes with clear plans for a turnaround and the Parliament that is expected to represent the will of the people. What will be scrutinised closely is exactly what those three collectively agree to adopt as the path forward, the seriousness of the state in walking that path mapped out and the details of the implementation plan proposed by the government to make change a reality.

It will be important for Parliament and government to take note of the recent survey results from the Strategic Studies Centre at the University of Jordan. The survey ranked different “power” institutions according to the people’s confidence levels in them. The Lower House of Parliament ranked lowest trailing many percentiles behind all others, and at 14 per cent was nearly matched only by the limited confidence in political parties, which was slightly higher at 17 per cent. The government, which also did not fare amazingly well, managed to show 44 per cent confidence rating, faring slightly better than civil society, media and political parties, mostly in the 30s percentile, but trailing slightly behind religious leaders, professional associations and the judiciary, which were mostly in the 40s and 50s percentile. 

The institutions that had unlimited confidence from Jordanians, all in the 90 percentile, were the military and security institutions. This reading of the findings sends, in my opinion, very serious alarm bells about the people’s perceptions of and lack of confidence in democracy and governance systems in Jordan. It also worryingly highlights the success of authoritarianism and its media mechanisms in Jordan in systematically convincing people, from all walks of life and regardless of origin or political affiliation, that democracy, transparency, political activism and civil governance and even rule of law do not work or are not necessary. This result was facilitated by the combination of weak inconsequential governments and self-serving parliaments, which together allowed the undermining of the democratisation process in the Kingdom.

This finding is one that the government and Parliament should address seriously and therefore act upon quickly to present a counter narrative based in elevating their own performance and showcasing the values of democratic representation, political organising and separation of authorities to serve cross accountability. The confidence session this week is the best and most immediate opportunity for both to firm up their footings in different and more state-like standards of operation.

And Jordanians will support this collaboration if it is implemented strategically and with their interest at the core of all action. What Jordanians will watch is whether Parliament understands that the people want them to safeguard an ethical, democratic, transparent, corruption-free, empathetic government that is committed to unpacking and resolving long standing and structural impediments in the face of good governance. Jordanians will be looking to parliamentarians to see if they are able to grow into their national legislative mandate and therefore articulate national demands and priorities rather than negotiate district-specific services that only serve their narrow reelection plans. 

Most importantly, Jordanians will watch whether Parliamentarians understand the need to empower the executive authority by applying professional accountability standards and milestones. The people will not support a parliament that ruthlessly uses the “opportunity” of having the upper hand in validating a new government that is seeking their vote of confidence in uncertain political times, to climb all over it and destroy its credibility for the sake of polishing theirs. 

Jordanians will also watch to see if the government is able to transcend the niceties of a public relations narrative and the wobbly messages and declarations of these first few weeks of government, and quickly adopts a more serious narrative of concise action, credible and targeted information sharing that is firmly situated in the narrative of a civic state, accountability, meritocracy and professional sector-specific action.

The confidence session will be the true litmus test of the seriousness of all stakeholders in pursuing a better future for Jordanians and Jordan. If they succeed in passing this test, they will regain the confidence of the people not only in them as individual politicians, but even more importantly in the authorities that they represent and the civic state we are all trying to build together.

 

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Comments

IT IS SAD BUT FAIR TO SAY THAT THE CONFIDENCE SESSION WILL BE OR IS A TEST OF TWO BAD CHOICES. THE CHOICE OF DEMOCRACY BASED ON MERITOCRACY WHICH IS AT THE PRESENT TIME IMPOSSIBLE IN JORDAN. IT IS NOT ABOUT CORRUPTION BUT THE POWER OF ENTITLEMENTS BASED ON TRIBAL POLITICS, OWNERSHIP OF A COUNTRY AND SOMETHING SIMILAR TO A STRONG MAN OR WOMAN MENTALITY. THE PRIME MINISTER WHO IS A VERY NICE AND CAPABLE MAN CAN NOT IMMUNIZE THE HAND PICKED MEMBERS OF THE PARLIAMENTS TO CHANGE AT A BLINK OF EYES. IT IS NOT A FLU SHOT. THE COUNTRY IS SUFFERING FROM A MULTIFACTORIAL SYNDROME WHICH CAN ONLY BE SOLUBLE WHEN THE CURRENT SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE CHANGES FROM THE THE RECYCLING MODEL TO A MERIT SYSTEM. IN THE ABSENT OF COMPETITION BASED ON MERIT, THE SLIPPERY SLOPE WILL SURELY CONTINUE. ANY ONE WHO HAVE READ ALMOST ALL THE ARTICLES WRITTEN BY NERMEEN SURELY WILL COME TO A CONCLUSION THAT SHE IS YAWING FOR A CHANGE TOWARDS MERITOCRACY BECAUSE ALL THE ILLS IN JORDAN HAVE ONE COMMON DENOMINATOR CALLED THE RIGHTS OF SOME FEW TO BE ENTITLED TO ALL THAT JORDAN HAS. NOT UNTIL ALL JORDANIANS, RICH OR POOR, EDUCATED OR NON-EDUCATED, HALF OR FULL CITIZENSHIPS, MEN OR WOMEN JOIN HANDS AND SAY NO MORE TO THE STATUS QUO AND START REBUILDING THE COUNTRY AND YOU CAN NOT DO THIS IN ANY CAST SYSTEM OF SOCIAL STATUS. AND SO, WHERE DOES THE COUNTRY GO FROM HERE? NOT EVEN THE USE OF SURVIVAL FUNCTION CAN PREDICT ANY THING TOMORROW.

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