Experts and MPs react to Tuesday’s incident in Parliament

Jordanian parliament members are separated during an altercation in the parliament in Amman on December 28, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
Amman — After Tuesday’s dramatic encounter at the Lower House that saw lawmakers trading blows and verbal abuse over differences regarding constitutional amendments, legal scholars and MPs alike found themselves engaged in a conversation over how to regulate the conduct of parliamentarians. اضافة اعلان

There are 22 amendments that will be debated by the Lower House, include the potential set-up of a National Security Council, expanding appointing powers by His Majesty King Abdullah.

Another debated amendment pertains to Article 6a of the Constitution, the first sentence of which reads “Jordanians shall be equal before the law.”

The proposed change would see the word “urdunioon” (“Jordanians” in Arabic, which is a grammatically masculine noun but also used to refer to all Jordanians regardless of gender) with the words “urdunioon” and “urduniaat” (the feminine plural of Jordanians).

These are arguably the most notable and controversial of the amendments.

MP Asma Rawahneh told Jordan News about her initial feelings when the fighting first broke out during the session on Tuesday.

“I did not feel intimidated to be honest, but I felt uneasy and disturbed. I could not ignore the fact that, as parliamentarians, we represent the people of this nation and hence we have a duty to convey our thoughts in an honorable, civil manner,” she said.

To prevent similar scenarios from occurring in the future, Rawahneh said that an emphasis on dialogue and conversation is crucial. “We need to reeducate ourselves collectively on the true meaning of democracy. The best interpretation of democracy reminds us that even if two of disagree strongly on something, both will know that at the end of the day they are colleagues who must be treated with mutual respect and dignity,” she said.

Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Jordan Laith Nasrawin told Jordan News that proceedings in the Lower House are regulated through bylaws. “I am not calling for an independent investigatory committee to be established as a result of the fighting incident on Tuesday,” he said. “I am just calling for the appropriate actors to revise the bylaws for members of parliament so that it would include certain provisions for regulating the process and the hearings, so that proper penalties are imposed on MPs who commit breaches,” he added.

“If you look at the sanctions right now that address the conduct of MPs, they’re quite basic. The penalties include freezing of the membership or dismissing MPs from parliamentary sessions. But we need to have some penalties in between these two existing ones. We should keep in mind that MPs are bound to follow a code of conduct,” Nasrawin said.

He continued by pointing out that according to the Jordanian parliamentary code of conduct of 2015, a committee is responsible for enforcing the code of conduct and address these kinds of issues. “The problem is that this committee has been abolished in 2019, according to the bylaw. As of 2019, the Legal Committee now handles cases of misconduct. We need to amend our code of conduct to reflect this bylaw change,” Nasrawin said.

He added that the reason why parliamentarians engage in fights during official sessions and are held to a different standard than civilians who commit violence in a non-political setting is largely due to “parliamentary immunity.”

The amendments will first be debated on a one-by-one basis, he added, and while the King has the power to veto the amendments if they are approved by the legislative branch, such veto powers “have never been used in modern history,” Nasrawin concluded.

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