Jordan’s king sees elections as central to political reform

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“The real concern that people have is that you have had this electoral change and you’re going to get exactly the same parliament that you had before,” David Schenker, director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told an audience at the think tank last week.

Danya Greenfield, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said the elections and the culmination of the reform process represent “a missed opportunity on the part of the king and the government to fully implement and actualize the vision that was really put forward.”

“The lack of this progress has cast doubts on the reform process, and the widespread apathy and the lack of enthusiasm that is shown for the elections is really a testament to the mismatch between the king’s rhetoric … and what has actually emerged on the ground,” Ms. Greenfield said at the Atlantic Council last week.

Jordan has weathered the Arab Spring protests that have buffeted the region and toppled longtime rulers in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

However, a crippling budget deficit, high levels of unemployment and rampant corruption among the ruling elite sparked protests in January of 2011 that have since ebbed and flowed in intensity. In November of last year, protesters uncharacteristically targeted the king after the government raised fuel prices in a desperate attempt to reduce a massive budget deficit.

Jordan is also struggling to cope with an influx of more than 180,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war in their country. These refugees have strained Jordanian resources and good will. But the 22-month-old war in Syria that has left more than 60,000 dead has also steeled Jordanians’ resolve not to go down the path of an armed struggle.

King Abdullah has laid out his vision for a comprehensive reform process and move toward democratization in a series of “discussion papers.”

In one released last week, he said the reforms are not just about changing laws. They are also aimed at getting Jordanians to participate in their government, he said. A full transition to a parliamentary form of government will require the emergence of truly national political parties, he wrote.

“The solution, from the perspective of the regime and the government, is to organize this election and then open a new window for dialogue with the opposition,” said Mr. Hussainy.

The Jordanian official who spoke on background said the king would welcome dialogue with the Islamists.

His Majesty has made many overtures to the Muslim Brotherhood and done everything in his power to be able to incentivize them to join the political process as an equal member of society,” the official said.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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