Heated Legal Committee debate on constitutional amendments nears final phase

(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The House of Representatives’ Legal Committee continued consultations with legal scholars and experts on the constitutional amendments proposed by the government, and according to committee members they are on the verge of wrapping up their deliberations. اضافة اعلان

Lawmaker Imad Adwan told Jordan News that the amendments, comprising inputs from the Lower House and the committee, will be presented to Parliament for a debate in the coming few days.  According to Adwan the committee is wrapping up its discussions and is on the verge of “concluding its work”.  The committee has the jurisdiction to modify, delete or add articles to the proposed constitutional amendments.

Among the constitutional amendments under the House debate, is the legal basis of establishing a National Security and Foreign Policy Council to be headed by His Majesty King Abdullah II.  The council would serve as a platform for coordination with the Jordan Armed Forces on addressing national security issues.  The proposed amendments would also give the King the powers to appoint the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti and Chief Justice; as well as Chief of the Royal Court and advisers — powers that are currently held by the council of ministers, according to Adwan.

Article 45 of the Constitution states that “the council of ministers shall be entrusted with the responsibility of administering all affairs of the State, internal and external with the exception of such matters as are or may be entrusted by the present constitution …” Article 40 on the powers vested in the King, states that “… any Royal Decree has to be countersigned by the Prime Minister or any minister concerned….” Armouti hinted to some incongruity between Article 45 and the draft Article 40, saying amendments on Article 40 “seek to expand on those powers, giving the King additional appointing powers without justification”.

 “Personally, I am not in favor of a ‘yes’ vote on the amendments,” Armouti said, pointing out that there are around 22 proposed amendments under debate, “and I believe that a majority of them are unconstitutional and problematic; for instance, reducing the House speaker’s service term to one year would in reality bring the term close to six months, because the parliamentary cycle is six months long, which could lead to the selection of a new Speaker every six months.”

Armouti is also adamant that the reduction of the speaker’s term is in conflict with Article 128 of the constitution, which states that “all laws, regulations and other legislative acts in force in the Kingdom on the date on which this Constitution comes into force shall continue to be in force until they are repealed or amended by the legislation issue thereunder.”

Other amendments “mired by inconsistencies”, according to Armouti, relate to a future parliamentary government. “If there is truly an effort towards reforms that establish a parliamentary government, then how do we square this with the fact that the same amendments do not allow MPs to become ministers? Under the proposed amendments, If MPs want to become ministers, they have to submit their resignation as members of parliament and this is not consistent with the desire to establish a parliamentary government”, he said.

Unlike other bills that require 50 percent plus one of the lawmakers’ vote, the proposed constitutional amendments require that two-thirds of the House members are in favor. 

Legal scholar Abdel Raouf Kasasbeh told Jordan News he is “skeptical that such amendments will achieve political reform, as the functions of the National Security and Foreign Policy Council would be taken from the government, which is accountable to the Parliament and the people.” Ultimately, he added, “I am of the belief that these changes will centralize power to an authority that cannot be questioned, and this is unacceptable.”  

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