House passes amendments related to King’s powers after heated debate

(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Lower House of Parliament on Monday passed amendments to the Constitution giving the King the exclusive power to appoint or accept the resignation of and dismiss the chief justice, head of the Sharia Judicial Council, grand mufti, Royal Court chief, minister of the court and the King’s advisors, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.اضافة اعلان

In a public vote, the deputies, by a majority of 115 votes, agreed to add these powers to the second paragraph of Article 40 of the Constitution, which defines cases in which the King exercises exclusive powers.

After the amendment, paragraph 2 of Article 40 of the Constitution reads as follows: "The King shall exercise the powers vested in him by Royal decree without such decree be countersigned by the Prime Minister and the minister or ministers concerned in the following cases: the selection of the Crown Prince, appointment of the Regent, appointment of the president and members of the Senate, dissolution of the Senate and acceptance of the resignation or dismissal of any of its members, appointment of the head of the Judicial Council and acceptance of his/her resignation, appointment of the president and members of the Constitutional Court and acceptance of their resignations, in addition to the appointment, acceptance of the resignations, and dismissal of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, director of the General Intelligence Department, director of the Public Security Directorate, Chief Justice, head of the Sharia Judicial Council, grand mufti, chief the Royal Court, minister of the court, and the King’s advisors.”

Lawmakers struck out an article added by the government related to the King's appointment of the two members of the National Security and Foreign Policy Council.

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh said after the vote that the amendments related to the King's powers are "completely in line with the Constitution", explaining that the amendments aim to "distance these posts from partisan bickering to preserve their impartiality".

The prime minister indicated that the amendment comes with the aim of reaching a partisan government, and thus separating the parliamentary function (legislation and oversight) from the executive function. He pointed out that the Minister of the Royal Court is a job title within the organizational structure of the Royal Court, and he/she is not a member of the Council of Ministers.

The lawmakers also passed, by a majority of 117, an amendment to Article 44 of the Constitution, which now reads as follows: "No minister, while holding his/her ministerial office, may purchase or lease any state property even if the sale or lease thereof has been offered in public auction. He/she shall not, while holding his/her ministerial office, become a member of the board of directors of any company or take part in any commercial or financial transaction or receive a salary from any company." The amendment of this article was limited to adding the phrase "while holding his/her ministerial office" after the minister’s word at the beginning of the article, and replacing the phrase "government property" with "state property."

But the amendment to Article 40 did not pass without heated debate by lawmakers. MP Farid Haddad considered one amendment, which gives the King the power to appoint the chief justice, head of the Sharia Judicial Council, grand mufti, and to accept their resignations without the government's signature, as taking away the government's powers and public mandate, according to Ammon News.

For his part, the head of the Legal Committee, Abdel Moneim Al-Awadat, responded that these amendments came to establish a new stage in which we move towards partisan life and pave the way for amendments to the electoral and parties’ laws.

He stressed that the amendments contained in Article 40 came to establish this stage, which we look forward to reaching within years, and its goal is to separate the religious and military institutions from all interactions that may arise as a result of reaching partisan governments.

MP Majid Al-Rawashdeh criticized the amendment and said "we are moving from a parliamentary monarchy towards absolute monarchy". He wondered how a government can back amendments that takes out from its own public mandate.

Former head of the Bar Association MP Saleh Al-Armouti rejected the proposal to expand the powers exercised by the King by Royal decrees without the signature of the prime minister and the concerned minister, asking: “What remains after that?”

He said that under Article 40 the King exercises his powers through his ministers, and Article 6 says that the King exercises authority through ministers, stressing that what is happening is “a violation of the Constitution and a violation of the principle that the nation is the source of powers.”

For his part Khasawneh said that the government in Jordan today is parliamentary because it had gained the confidence of the Lower House. 

He added that the model set out for parliamentary governments in the draft amendment to the Constitution is that the party with a majority should nominate the head of government and its ministries while preserving the principle of separation between executive and legislative functions. 

He clarified that the party with a majority must name the ministers noting that there are universal examples of parliamentary governments that prevent the combination of a ministerial post with Lower House membership.

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