Jordan: Vote Gives PM Omar Razzaz ‘Breathing Space’


By Daoud Kuttab

Jordan Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s comfortable victory in a parliamentary confidence vote has given the reformist leader some breathing space — for the time being at least.
Razzaz survived the vote by a 79-49 margin after a week of intense debate in the 130-member Parliament.

However, the embattled leader, who has been in office for only six weeks, knows the victory cannot be taken for granted.

The confidence vote is likely to give Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. Jordan’s Parliament will return from recess in October and, short of an emergency, another vote of confidence is unlikely.

After the vote, Razzaz told his supporters: “The weight on our shoulders is heavy, the road is long, and we need stamina for the long run. I know you have high expectations and this is a big responsibility. May God help us to live up to this confidence.”

Riyad Alsubuh, a human rights lawyer, said that the vote was unique because it was not based on compromises.

“The Razzaz government didn’t make any deals with MPs in return for their votes, which has given the government unprecedented power. Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals.”

Voting was temporarily interrupted when an unemployed worker jumped from a balcony into the main hall. Razzaz left his seat and was later seen on video talking to the protesting worker and taking his personal information.

Before the vote Razzaz reassured the Parliament that although the country’s situation is difficult, “we can overcome if we work together.”

The premier’s failure to make any special promises angered some MPs, who were hoping to trade their vote for something tangible to their communities.

Assem Rababa, director of the Adaleh Center, told Arab News that some government supporters believed they were losing their influence in reforming election law.

“Key people close to the government felt that this new government competes with them. The speaker of the Parliament had a role in helping Razzaz win the vote.”

Saed Karajeh, a lawyer and political observer, said that some MPs voted out of confusion.

“The prime minister had a month to prepare and can’t be expected to come up with fully developed plans. If he did, it would have been rushed. I am surprised by many of the MPs who have been preaching reform and then voted against the Razzaz government.”

Sinan Sweiss, a Jordan publisher, said that security issues are harming the country.

“Having a strong security system is essential, but allowing security to overrule all other areas in the governance and society is harming our country. We are losing our best people, those who are able to change or improve things here.”

Sweiss, who is active in the civil state movement, said that while Razzaz is a reformer, he has been attacked much more than other prime ministers.

“MPs from the civil coalition voted against him, while those with money and ego voted for him.”

One issue that dominated the discussion was the fact that seven members of the Razzaz government are women.

Members of the Islamic ActionFront criticized Razzaz because all seven fail to wear the head cover (hijab).

Obaida Abdo, a television presenter who focuses on women’s issues, said that Razzaz showed his humanity throughout the discussions, while the MPs were hypocrites.
“Many of those who support the policies and person of Razzaz voted against him, which reflects the chaos that has become a hallmark of consecutive governments in Jordan,” she said.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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