Monday, June 20, 2011

Jordan: A Case Study

By Nermeen Murad
 When His Majesty King Abdullah announced last week that the reform process will produce a government of elected ministers, I considered this a challenge from His Majesty to the government, to parliament, to state institutions and to political parties themselves, to actually stop talking about reform and begin to deliver.
For the first time since the reform movement hit Jordan, we had a clear political articulation of what King Abdullah would consider an acceptable output from all this “reform activity”: tangible, quantifiable and concrete results that can have immediate impact on the political process in the country. He publicly removed any doubt that reform was being hindered by someone “from above”.
Debate online did tackle the fear that delaying tactics by diehard anti-democracy camps will make this pledge redundant with their ploys that range from xenophobic claims that “black September” elements are working against Jordan, water shortages will result from our host status, political parties are foreign agents which work to destroy the country and democrats are against the monarchy to even sillier claims like people are not ready for democracy, Jordanians are lazy or they can only be ruled with the stick, etc.
The bottom line is change has already happened. Consensus has been reached over the need for reform. In their majority, Jordanians have agreed that reform has to be studied, deliberated, planned and executed with sensitivity and patience. They also agree that only a political process that delivers politicians with a transparent political agenda to a position within the legislative or executive authority is the acceptable path for institutionalised political processes.
There is need for a vetting progression that would guarantee the process isn’t hijacked by high-profile politicians working for their own shortsighted political agendas or manipulated by hidden forces working in the dark.
There is the case of a former minister who revealed in a televised interview last week that he pursued a policy during his tenure that considered it was in Jordan’s interest to implement an exclusionist policy that denies Jordanian citizenship to - or even removes it from - other ethnic origins showcases how high-profile politicians appointed to senior Cabinet posts were able to use their position to serve their narrow political agendas.
The fact that he also revealed that His Majesty had intervened to put an end to this practice also shows that this is not a policy that received political sanction from the leadership of this country, and was actually implemented without popular, parliamentary or even His Majesty’s sanction.
Clearly the former minister’s views have a place in political party manifestos, and clearly he could run for elections on such a political platform, but he would have to earn his place in the executive authority only after he is elected based on this political position, declared on a party ticket, that reflects the views of a majority in parliament.
Those would still have to be invited to form a government or at least muster enough clout to be part of a coalition. Assuming that a coalition would still subscribe to this policy towards Jordanians of other ethnic origins, that government would in turn have to gain support for this policy within a declared government policy statement that receives a parliamentary vote of confidence.
This complicated political process, with checks and balances at every turn, is the one that would protect the citizens who suffered as a result of this minister’s single-handed approach.
And that is exactly the process that His Majesty called for in his speech last week, and that would bring about the reform demand that governments be no longer appointed at whim or through personal relations, but based on clear, transparent and public political programmes.
Corruption, as we all know, is not only the occurrence of financial mismanagement, but a state of mind that discounts governance rules and limitations.
Again, the road is long, the challenge is great, the resistance will be high, but this last week, we saw the political narrative move from the descriptive to the articulate and that in itself is a huge step forward.
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 20/06/2011

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