A local Jordanian civil society organization was surprised recently to get a rejection to a project they were working on from the committee of approvals of foreign aid which is made up of representatives of al major ministries. The rejection stated that “political development is not a priority” in Jordan.
I have no idea if political is or isn’t a priority of the Khaswaneh administration but a quick look at the public statements of senior officials in Jordan shows the opposite of this claim. In recent days we heard the King open the nineteenth parliament with an insistence of the democratic process. “Never have difficult circumstances prevented us from continuing the democratization process, nor had it stopped us from adhering to constitutional requirements.”
Earlier in October and in the letter of designation the King had instructed Bisher Khasawneh to work towards “the highest level of cooperation, coordination and keenness to complete all the pieces of legislation that form the pillars of our reform process.” Khaswaneh had responded with this designation by promising to present within 100 days a comprehensive “vision for dealing with economic, socials, financial and political issues as well as to reform all sectors without a set timeline and clear measures to the accomplishments.”
If we want to assume that the representatives of the Ministry of Interior, social affairs and political affairs and others who are members of the inter-ministerial funding committee have not been following the latest statements of the King and the Prime Minister, here is another statement made by the King to the eighteenth parliament in which he told them “You assume this responsibility following elections that embody our commitment to strengthen public participation in political life and decision-making as well as enrooting our democratic path – a path we cherish and pledge to protect and enhance.”
If we look at the King’s discussion papers, we would also find that since 2012 all seven papers have dealt with “comprehensive reform” and four of them dealt specifically with the need to “development a democratic political system.”
It is strange that an inter-ministerial committee doesn’t consider political reform to be one of its priorities despite the fact that an entire ministry is dedicated to political affairs and it a combination of two ministries the ministry of Parliamentary affairs and the ministry of political development to create the Ministry of Political Affairs.
Therefore, political development is part of the vision, goals and programs of Jordanian government.
And if we were to accept that political development is not a priority of the current government, does that give the government which represents only one of the three governing branches to object to political development say for the legislative branch?
We have seen in the last month how the absence of political development has resulted in the failure of a single Jordanian woman from reaching the parliament outside the quota system. We also noticed a retraction in the success of political parties and activists with ideas and political thoughts which means that we will be facing a weak parliament that is unable to meet the real needs of the nation.
Finally, the question that needs to be answered is whether the government has the right to block civil society organizations from working on political reform? While we hear nice talk from the King and successive governments about the importance of civil society, we are seeing actions that oppose that.
Civil society is active in Jordan and the latest survey by Jordan University’s Strategic center held on October 25th regarding the new Bisher Khasawneh government showed that civil society in Jordan has the trust of 47% of those survived while political parties only received 22% and the parliament received 20% trust. Ahead of civil society was the courts (64%) and religious leaders (60%).
The Bisher Khasawneh administration must answer the simply question of whether political reform is a priority of his government and whether he can address his own government not to put obstacles in the way of civil society actors working on political reform which can produce progress and prosperity which are the top priorities of the king.