King appoints new fee for political reform in Jordan

There is a way of deja vu in Jordan following a royal order June 10 asking former Prime Minister Samir Rifai to chair a 92-member committee entrusted with modernizing the nation’s political system that can deal with presenting an election and political events draft legal guidelines by November that might then be handed by the federal government and despatched to parliament for a vote.

For years, political events and voters have been calling for changing the present single-vote election system, which they blame for producing weak and submissive legislatures. The single vote system was adopted again within the mid-1990s in order to weaken the Islamists’ possibilities of forming sizeable opposition blocs.

The letter the king despatched to Rifai talked about “reform” solely as soon as, stressing as a substitute the necessity for modernizing the political setting and empowering the youth and ladies. Jordanians have been there earlier than quite a few instances. Since the king took over from his late father in 1999 he had written and talked about political reform as a private aim. 

In 2004, King Abdullah wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal saying, “We believe that freedom and tolerance are essential if human potential is to be fulfilled. We seek civic institutions that respect human rights, including gender equality, and the rule of law. We know that transparent, accountable governance is essential if citizens are to be shareholders in change.”

Also that yr he wrote in Foreign Policy journal, “Jordan has already instituted its own reforms, including elections, measures to entrench basic political and human rights such as freedom of assembly and the press, and initiatives to empower women and youth. Other programs help build an effective political party system and strengthen an independent judiciary. In economic affairs, we have learned from the dismal examples of the 20th century. Public-sector enterprise alone simply cannot provide adequate opportunities for growing populations. Nations must also look toward the private sector for job creation, innovation, and entrepreneurship.” But in actuality the scenario on the bottom was completely different. 

Between then and now he has fashioned quite a few panels and committees that sought to current numerous street maps for political reform — a public demand that goes again so far as 1990. One such committee that was entrusted with presenting a complete long-term plan was the 2005 Royal Committee for the National Agenda that the king hoped would current “a national agenda to build modern Jordan and fulfill the aspirations of citizens for a better future.” After months of deliberations the committee offered a wide-ranging plan together with drafts for an election and political events’ legal guidelines. The plan was by no means carried out. 

And following public protests in the course of the 2011 Arab Spring, the king sacked the federal government, sarcastically headed by Rifai, for failing to embrace political reforms. He requested former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri to move a National Dialogue Committee with the intention of steering a “dialogue in a way that best serves Jordan. We ask you to bear in mind that you are expected to arrive at a democratic elections law that produces a legislature that represents all Jordanians and assumes a pioneering role in entrenching justice, integrity, transparency and the rule of the law as the elements of the practice of politics.” 

The suggestions of that committee over the introduction of a progressive election legislation, nevertheless, have been by no means carried out. Successive governments had sought methods to take care of numerous variations of the one vote election legislation — one which critics consider has favored tribal heads and businessmen on the expense of political events. Furthermore, the legislation is blamed for deepening divisions amongst Jordanians whereas producing submissive parliaments which have little oversight over the manager department. 

There have been different royal appointed committees that seemed into growing the independence of the judiciary and strengthening the rule of legislation amongst others, however general lack of political will to implement real political reforms has been the frequent denominator. Despite the king’s many reform initiatives over the previous 20 years, a scarcity of parliamentary oversight and weak governments have resulted in poor governance, public sector corruption and failing public companies together with well being and better training.

Calls for wide-ranging political and financial reforms have elevated because the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic that has uncovered the fragility of a dysfunctional public sector, particularly in coping with well being points and holding the financial system going.

This time, public strain had elevated demanding real political reforms aimed toward stamping out corruption, nepotism and abuse of public assets. Jordan’s financial system is stalling whereas unemployment and poverty charges have reached file ranges. The nationwide debt is almost 100% of the gross home product and the price range deficit is almost 1 / 4 of the whole price range and is rising every year. With between 60% to 80% of the price range going to public sector salaries little is left for capital expenditures and investments.

Critics are pessimistic over the brand new committee and its skill to ship significant reforms, together with due to the function of the prime minister, who has resisted previous reform efforts, and the fee’s mandate, which may restrict the scope of reform to keep away from proscribing the function of the monarchy.

Activists additionally contend that political reforms achieve an setting the place a number of legal guidelines curtail freedom of expression and threaten activists with arbitrary detentions.  Jordan is designated not free within the newest Freedom House survey of political rights and civil liberties . 

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