Jordan: Most surprising and comprehensive political reform in two decades.

Jordan: Most surprising and comprehensive political reform in two decades.

Late November witnessed, Jordan’s King Abdullah II dropping a large stone in the country’s stagnant political pool, stirring up what could be the country’s most far-reaching political reform in two decades.

The monarch drew resounding applause from both the man in the street and the political elite when he dissolved the lower house of parliament, days before the chamber was scheduled to convene after its annual recess. Abdullah in particular called for the amendment of Jordan’s notorious election law, which the country’s opposition and independent politicians believe gave birth to the failed parliament where it has been the direct cause of the country’s stunted political development since the early 1990s.

 The Islamist-led opposition welcomed Abdullah’s steps, but demanded the introduction of genuine changes into the election law what would turn it into a vehicle for meaningful political reform in the country. “We badly need a new election law that gives rise to a house that represents the will of the people,” said Abdul Lateef Arabiyat, chairman of the Muslim Brotherhoods Consultative Council.

 Analysts were in agreement that the dissolved house’s failure to carry out its legislative and supervisory duties was one of the key reasons that prompted King Abdullah to sack the 110-member chamber. Arabiyat accused the previous government of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit of rigging the 2007 polls and targeting the country’s Islamist movement. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, returned only six deputies in the outgoing house, compared with 17 members in the previous chamber.

The state-funded National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) reported “irregularities” in both the parliamentary and the municipal elections. The IAF is the only Jordanian political party organized on the pattern adopted by Western democracies. As long as the present situation continues in which no Jordanian political party – either alone or in coalition – possesses a majority in parliament, King Abdullah remains committed to the traditional approach of choosing a prime minister he thinks can perform the job properly.

Arabiyat contended that a new house which truly represented the people was essential for the country to deal successfully with challenges, which he named as corruption, an unprecedented public deficit and Israeli “machinations” against the Hashemite Kingdom.

Former Interior Minister Samir Habashneh said that one of the reasons behind King Abdullah’s decision to dissolve the lower house at this juncture was the “obstinacy” shown by the current right-wing Israeli government. Specifically, Habashneh referred to Israeli steps widely perceived in Jordan and other Arab countries as designed to “Judaize” East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.