State-led reform and the danger of divisive rhetoric

Fahad Al-Khitan (Photo: JNews)
The process of reform in Jordan goes through state institutions and is carried out at the state’s will. Thinking otherwise would be delusional.

Prior to the events of April 1989, King Hussein had been planning to hold parliamentary elections; preparing for them through an amendment to the Elections Law, shortly before the protests that month.اضافة اعلان

The outcomes of democratic transformation have not deviated from the established principles that control the Jordanian state, even at the economic level. In sync with the return of parliamentary life, the entry of opposition parties into the parliament and the endorsement of the National Charter, Jordan adopted the first economic correction program with the International Monetary Fund, then later endorsed a privatization strategy for some of its sectors and concluded a peace agreement with Israel in the presence of a Parliament where Islamists had considerable presence.

Amidst international and regional conditions that were more perilous than the “April ‘Uprising”, the state, under His Majesty King Abdullah’s leadership, set the tempo for Arab Spring-triggered transformations and the challenges and risks that came with them.

At the most decisive moment, His Majesty King Abdullah responded by taking well-thought out steps, which included forming a Royal committee to amend the Constitution. The National Dialogue Committee then laid the foundations for amendments to laws that regulated the partisan and political life.

Slogans and the rhetoric of protesters that crossed all the lines have faded away and shattered, whereas the majority of the public engaged in the political process without hesitation. The outcomes of that stage could have been built upon but forces within and outside the state, including opposition, spoilt the party and sent the several opportunities down the drain.

It may be the case that a wide segment of Jordanians feel frustration due to the impact of COVID-19, which has cast broad shadows on the lives of citizens, but Jordan’s woes are not exceptional and have been shared by several communities struck by the pandemic, which is threatening livelihoods, economies, and leaving behind tens of millions of unemployed people.

Some inside Jordan and outside it were under the impression that the state of economic stagnation could have been taken advantage of to achieve political ends. This was not the case, even before calls to revive the memory of March 24 protests.

The broadest social segment of Jordanians is in no way concerned with the political rhetoric spoken by many. There is a sense of awareness that the day-to-day worries that have piled up require practical not political remedies; at least in this critical stage of the battle against the pandemic.

There is without a doubt a need to carry out political and administrative reform, develop the tools used to carry out work within the Parliament and political parties, recycle power, rescue Jordan’s crumbling political elite, and revive values like patriotism, equality and rule of law, and other key issues. But King Abdullah was ahead of everyone when he took these issues into account after the most recent parliamentary elections, holding his hand out to everyone in an effort to bring them to fruition.

We did not need to take to the street to demand reforms already planned for, and scheduled, by the King, and which he had instructed his government to move forward with. What is truly suspicious, however, is that those who advocated such rhetoric, as though they were revolutionary demands, targeted the Kingdom and the monarchy in their campaigns — as if it were the monarchy that stands in the way of reforms. The truth is that some prominent opposition figures cling on to archaic ideological principles to impose conditions for change outside the context of the age and modernity in defense of their private interests and personal gains.

Some of the rhetoric we have heard over the past days sought to plunge Jordan into chaos and spread internal strife. In short, some wish to abolish the state’s institutions and recreate them the way they see fit. The experiences of countries around us have offered living and bloodied proof of the fate that awaits communities that have chosen this path.

The only option is state-led reform in Jordan. Otherwise, it is endless chaos. It is time that we learn this lesson.