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Former US legislators impressed by Jordanians’ political awareness

By Raed Omari - Apr 16,2016 - Last updated at Apr 16,2016

AMMAN — Voluntarily and in their own capacity, two former US lawmakers have toured the Kingdom this month for meetings with young people to educate them on America’s political system and presidential election campaigns.

Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican, and David Skaggs, a Democrat, held over the last week meetings with young Jordanians from universities, civil society organisations and youth societies to present briefings on the US political system.

Briefing journalists last Thursday on their meetings, Buerkle and Skaggs said they also discussed political reforms in Jordan with young people, the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Kingdom, and a variety of local and regional issues.

Syria’s ongoing conflict, Washington’s Middle East policies and the US-Iran nuclear deal were also among the issues discussed with young Jordanians, the two former Congress members said.

Buerkle, a commissioner at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, said the “enormous” challenges facing the Jordanian society and government as a result of the turbulent region and the Syrian refugee influx were major issue she and her colleague discussed with young people. 

“All the young people we met do not seem to be concerned about Jordan’s political system,” the mother of six said, adding that employment and economy were seen to be Jordanian youth’s biggest concerns.

“In their insightful questions, the young people I met asked us whether there are shifts in the US policies on the Middle East in general and on Jordan on particular. We answered them: No.”

Buerkle also said that gender equality and the issue of involving women in Jordan’s political fabric was a “pressing question”. “I told them that it took time until women had their rights completed in the US.”

For Skaggs, young Americans’ involvement in their country’s politics and their awareness of their country’s political and legislative systems is not that adequate. He argued that the fact that “the existential threat of the Cold War is gone has made young Americans shy away from politics”.

Like Buerkle, Skaggs, who served 12 years in Congress from 1987-99, said young Jordanians’ major concern is economy more than politics, adding that the people they met also wanted a stronger Jordanian-US alliance. 

The father of three also said that young Jordanians raised concerns over a shift in US policies on the Arab region following the Washington-Tehran nuclear deal. “We told them that making new regional friends does not mean at all forsaking old ones.” 

 

He also expressed admiration of the Jordanian youths’ “knowledge of regional and international matters” and their “zeal towards having a say in their country’s politics”.

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