Jordan: A Working Model?

The Middle East Online reports that Jordan plans to postpone its parliamentary election in order to amend its election laws and organize its first poll for regional councils, which have traditionally been appointed by the government.  However, Reuters is reporting that Jordan’s King Abdullah II will likely shy away from genuine political reform now that his decision to dissolve the parliament has received little public and international outcry.  Many advocates for reform expect no drastic changes and Taher Kanaan, a former deputy prime minister, argues, “in recent years, changes of Parliament or Cabinet are just part of the entertainment business in Jordan.”

The article goes on to explain that Jordan’s electoral system was instituted in 1993 with a distinctive slant towards “rural, pro-monarchy tribal constituencies and away from mostly Palestinian-populated cities where Islamist sentiment is strong.”  The fear of Islamists has continued through the 2007 elections and now the regime is using the Middle East peace process as a crutch to prevent reform.  Nawaf Tell, a Foreign Ministry official who heads Jordan University’s Center for Strategic Studies, states “institutional political reform cannot be launched in a sustainable, consistent track unless there is real progress on the ground on the Palestinian issue […] Now public opinion appreciates security and does not take it for granted anymore”

In light of these decisions, Joshua Landis carries a statement from Rami Khouri claiming, “Jordan is a model that works, whether we like it or not.”  Landis then agrees with Khouri and moderate Islamist Laith Shubeilat, who argue that Jordan is a police state in which no real opposition is permitted and there are few “real proponents” of democracy in the Middle East.