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Have the chickens come home to roost?

Jun 02,2018 - Last updated at Jun 02,2018

Jordan is going through a critical transition that will require wisdom and a clear decision to embrace meaningful political reform that empowers the executive, legislative and judicial authorities and produces functioning institutions and processes of democracy based on true representation.

What is happening now in Jordan is not the result of a singular government decision to issue a draconian tax law or raise the price of fuel of electricity. It is a burst of anger against how these decisions, and many others, are made without reference to the political will of the people. It is a cry of frustration at the marginalisation and draining of government, parliament and judiciary of any political value or symbolism, leaving citizens fragmented, without political leadership and framing and, therefore, without legitimate process to express the collective will of the people. 

Citizens have accepted the common wisdom that security and stability require the state to take lead in decision-making on foreign policy issues and to minimise foreign intervention, or to be more accurate, meddling in the internal affairs of the country. The citizens accepted that Arab Spring-like revolutions would only lead to further instability and trusted the state to wade through the muddle that resulted from that so-called popular Arab revolution in order to safeguard the country. The citizens also accepted political realism meant that we were on the side of unpopular regional and international partners at times in order to protect the economic and political interests of the country. 

Yet, citizens have recently become concerned that these high-level justifications are taken to mean a carte blanche to decision makers to undermine and marginalise all political systems, bypass the will of people and forge ahead with unpopular decisions regardless of their impact on the daily lives and livelihood of ordinary citizens. 

Protection mechanisms to safeguard the well-being of the citizens, including basic health, education and human and social safety nets, were forgotten or derailed. Most critically, Jordanian citizens started to believe that a class of privileged and powerful men is mismanaging the system in order to tip the scales in their favour and gain more influence and financial benefit.

Today, we are at a crossroad and a decision has to be made on next steps based on the answer to a strategic question: Is the ordinary citizen more of a priority to the government than any other “power base?”

If the answer is yes, then the path is clear and I believe will ultimately lead to a productive partnership between the regime and the people to collaboratively build institutions that will safeguard the country and the human beings inhabiting this homeland. 

If the answer is that the ordinary citizen is less of a priority than pacifying the powerful individuals benefitting from the current state of affairs, then what is described as a disconnect between the regime and the citizen will widen and antagonism and therefore instability will most likely rule the day. The consequences are too dangerous to consider.

The steps that are needed today are clear: The executive authority must be represented by a prime minister and Cabinet that are mandated to consult, plan and implement in response to strategic country-level considerations, but always driven by the interests, not necessarily always wants, of the ordinary citizens, a legislative authority elected through fair, free and transparent elections to represent our political, religious, gender, origin and geographic diversity and that feeds into a government that, at least nominally, is parliament based; a corruption free, independent, speedy judicial authority that gives speedy access to justice to all citizens and institutionalises rule of law without any exceptions or restrictions. 

The safety valve and the condition to the stability of our, hopefully, quick steps towards a democratic system must be the Hashemite regime and His Majesty King Abdullah’s far reaching credibility among the people on the one hand, and the open channels of communications with Jordanians through an honest, credible and critical media and other communication platforms. 

If there remains a consensus among all groups in Jordan, it is that the Hashemite regime is our protector and the go to institution above all the political wrangling of the so-called powerful and influential. Considering that we are now hostage to weakened and disconnected political parties and parliament that is popularly perceived to be more focused on accessing government contracts and benefits than representing the people, the media must be allowed to step up and deliver an unbiased picture of the current state of affairs to the regime openly in order to allow a transparent debate about these affairs.

The days of limiting these conversations to security corridors and a few influential people with access and agendas must end. The democratic institutions, including a parliamentary government, a representative and honest parliament and rule of law must replace the archaic tools of bartering, politicking and backdoor deals if only because, as we see today, those do not work in the long run. 

It is said when old mistakes pile up and catch up with us that the “chickens have come home to roost” and we may be seeing some of that in Jordan today. 

It is therefore imperative that we are aware of our historical mistakes as we move to fix them today. We must accept today that the proposed tax law has to be seriously reconsidered and reworked since it reeks of disregard for the citizens’ hard earned income and daily livelihood concerns and has become a symbol of all that is seen as wrong in that relationship between the governor and the governed.

But we may also be tempted or find ourselves cajoled to return to old ways and offer small deals giving media-savvy dissidents personal privilege to shut them up, or accept demands to walk away from the much-needed public sector reform to pacify some who are trying to misuse the state of unrest to push through personal agendas. 

Negotiations today must, therefore, stay focused on the more important long-term grievances and core contributors to unrest, political, economic and social, rather than only the short-term triggers that protestors are vocalising today. 

Any address to the people must speak to the worries and concerns that people have come to blame for the country’s weakened economy and failed democracy. What we really need is institutional, long-term and visionary political commitment to reform that fixes our Jordanian house once and for all. Our long-term stability depends on it.

 

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Comments

YES MAM, THE CHICKENS HAVE ARRIVED IN A BIG AND COMPLEX WAY. THE SITUATION IS VERY COMPLICATED, CONVOLUTED AND
INTERWOOVEN. IN FACT, IT IS SO COMPLICATED THAT ALL HANDS MUST NOW BE ON THE DECK TO DIG JORDAN OUT THE HOLE OF ECONOMIC MESS. YES, YOU AND HOST OF OTHERS PREDICTED THIS, SENT OUT SERIES OF ALARM BELLS IN ALL FORMS SOME OF WHICH WERE METAPHORIC. NOW THAT ALL PARTIES HAS COME AROUND TO AGREE THAT JORDAN HAS A SERIOUS PROBLEM, THE NEXT STEP SHOULD BE OPINIONS ABOUT ANY PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ECONOMIC RIVIVAL AND GOOD GOVERNANCE. PERHARPS THIS IS THE TIME TO RETIRE THE OLD BRIGADES SO THAT JORDAN CAN SEE DIFFERENT LAST NAMES FROM THE LIST OF THEIR MINISTERS AND GATE KEEPERS. WHAT MORE THE WASTA SYSTEM CAN NOW FINALLY BE BURRIED TO GIVE EVERY JORDANIAN EQUAL CHANCE TO SERVE, CONTRIBUTE AND SHARE IDEAS.
I CAN NOT SEE HOW SOME FAMILIES CAN HAVE AN ENTRENCHED SITS IN ANY GOVERNMENT AND EXPECT SUCH GOVERNMENT TO SURVIVE. JORDAN HAS LOTS OF BRAINS, HIGHLY EDUCATED AND TRAINED AND YET HAS NO SAY, CAN NOT RULE, CAN NOT PUT THEIR TALENTS TO WORK. I KNOW A LOT OF JORDANIANS WITH THE BEST OF THE BEST ACADEMIC SUCCESS ONLY TO BE SIDELINED EITHER BECAUSE OF GENDER OR OTHER FORMS OF PHOBIAS. IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE AND JORDAN MUST START TO
BE JORDAN AND NO BADY'S SUBJECT, HAS ITS INDEPENDENT POLICY, HAVE NO MASTERS OR CEO'S AND BRING ALL THE CITIZENS TOGETHER TO REBUILD THE ECONOMY OF THE NATION. IN THE ACADEMIC FRONT, MOST OF THE DEANS OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION THAT WERE APPOINTED THROUGH THE WASTA SYSTEM MUST NOW BE ALL SACKED TO BE REPLACED BY THOSE WHO EARNED IT. TO QUALIFY FOR ANY POST IN THE GOVERNMENT, ONE MUST EARN IT AND ALL FORMS OF MINISTERIAN POST SHOULD HAVE TERM LIMITS. MAY BE IT IS TIME TO ELECT THE PRIME MINISTER RATHER THAN BY APPOINTMENT.
IRRESPECTIVE OF THE SITUATION OF THINGS, IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO " BE LATE THAN THE LATE " AND SO ALL JORDANIANS ARE NOW ON-CALL TO TABLE THEIR IDEAS AT ALL LEVELSAND BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION RATHER THAN BLAME GAME.

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