ISSN 2330-717X

Jordan’s new PM, Tool To Counter Reform – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit has been replaced by Awn al-Khasawneh to steer Jordan’s new government through the spring and the dramatic reforms of the Arab world and keep the country away from this chaotic atmosphere.

The professional background of the new Jordanian Prime Minister indicates that unlike many former premiers, he has not served in any military or security institutions.

Al- Khasawneh was appointed as Jordan’s foreign minister in 1975, and served as the chief of the country’s Royal Hashemite Court between 1996 and 1998. In 2000, he started serving on the International Court of Justice in The Hague and was the court’s vice president from 2006 to 2009.

From early on, Jordan was exposed to the storm of the uprisings in the Arab world, but popular demonstrations in the country and the demands of the parties there never exceeded the right of free elections, and replacing the king or reforming the political system in the country was never brought up. Like other Arab states, people’s protests have faced attacks from club-wielding men, the latest of which occurred a few days ago.

The change of the prime minister came while the former premier has severely lost support, and even a parliamentary majority had called for his impeachment. Al-Bakhit entered new people into his government to slightly alleviate the people’s outrage, but the traditional political structure in Jordan along with his professional background in military and security organizations did not allow him to achieve any change.

Some of his ministers and associates were suspected of financial corruption and those opposition members who had entered his cabinet in hopes of realizing reforms did not find the opportunity for doing anything. The former Jordanian ambassador to Israel was an assurance for the Israeli regime during his premiership that would strongly resist the opposition’s demands for the abolition of the 1994 peace deal between the two sides, dubbed as the Wadi Araba Treaty.

The Jordanian king set up a committee to make some changes in some terms of the constitution. The introduction of the committee will still enshrine the king, the verdict in the appointment of prime minister or dissolution of parliament. All Abdullah II’s effort is to keep the frenzy at the level of the premier and the cabinet, and protect himself and his palace from change in the wake of popular protests.

Jordan’s new prime minister is a popular legal character, and has possibly received assurances from the king to make favorable reforms. Jordan’s incumbent parliament is not much popular with people and many of its members have been charged with entering the legislative body through eco-political corruption and royal connections. This parliament is on the king’s side and easily passes his desires changes.

It is expected that soon, the king will use his powers to dissolve the parliament to pave the way for a new election in line with the mission of the new prime minister and the new government, so that people will believe the realization of change, clear off the streets, and continue to see the rest of the process at the new parliament.

Jordan is in a unique situation: a country did not exist until the fall of the Ottoman Empire (after World War I) and is a result of an agreement between Britain and France, which were the colonialist winners of the war. Its indigenous population is smaller than the number of Palestinians who took refuge in the eastern part of the Jordan River following a series of Arab-Israeli wars.

The Jordanian solution is effectively propagated by parties in Israel that view Jordan as the Palestinian State. Establishing a peace treaty with Israel, gave Jordanian leaders hope that Israel has permanently recognized the country, but even at the present, there are those in Israel’s ruling Likud party who openly back the solution of replacing Jordan to end the crisis of Palestine.

It is of significance for the United States and Israel that the developments in Jordan are managed in a way not to allow wide-range of reforms and that the Israeli peace treaty is not endangered. After the revolution in Egypt and the loss of Hosni Mubarak (strategic treasure), the fall of the Jordanian king will face Israel with huge threats.

Jordan is stuck between demands for reform and establishment of democracy at home, and regional demands reign in these changes. The [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of oil-rich, non-democratic Arabs, is willing to make Jordan join their club. Financial aid is the main factor the council has been wielding to make Jordan and Morocco join it.

Al-Khasawneh has undertaken a difficult mission to strive amid popular demands for tangible political reforms and attempts by the royal family to evade any change. The Arab Spring has emboldened the Jordanian people to stage their response to the government’s decisions on the streets.

The Jordanian king has appointed a man with a mild record to counter reforms, but as long as most political powers are confined to the Jordan’s royal family, the chances for Awn al-Khasawneh’s success as prime minister look slim.

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