'Abdullah’s promised electoral changes are insignificant'

HU professor says media is overplaying Jordanian king's announcement in which he said he’ll continue to advance democratic reforms.

By REUTERS
June 14, 2011 02:30
2 minute read.
Jordan's King Abdullah in Moscow, April 2011.

King Abdullah_311 reuters. (photo credit: Alexander Natruskin / Reuters)

 
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Promises made by Jordan’s King Abdullah to change how the government elects its cabinet is not a significant step, and the media is overplaying the announcement, a Hebrew University professor said on Monday.

Dr. Assaf David, a lecturer and research fellow at HU’s Harry S. Truman Center for the Advancement for Peace, who specializes in Jordan, said that Abdullah “has done bigger things in the past.”

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“Also, pay attention to how he presented this move; he didn’t give a deadline,” David continued. “There is a difference between saying something is an endgame and actually giving it a timeline. There is no blueprint for democracy, or anything more than minimal changes.”

According to the professor, Jordan’s likely approval for membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council political and economic union would “seal the fate” of any reforms that he would potentially make, and that membership in the union would provide the Hashemite Kingdom with the budgetary assistance to shore up its finances and provide for its citizens.

Also Monday, Abdullah’s motorcade reportedly came under a hail of rocks and bottles thrown by a mob in southern Jordan, a report that was denied by Amman. David said such an incident is also not unprecedented.

On Sunday, Abdullah said he would continue to advance democratic reforms, but that pressure from street protests is a recipe for chaos.

Abdullah said he supports a new electoral reform recommended by a governmental committee that would allow a parliamentary majority to elect the cabinet, as opposed to the monarch himself.

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“We hope these recommendations ensure a modern electoral law that leads to a parliament that is representative of all Jordanians,” he said.

“As we witness the changes in the region, this demands making a difference between the required democratic changes and between the dangers of chaos and sedition (fitna) on the other,” Abdullah added. “Our reformist vision is through speedy reforms that respond to our peoples desires... away from recourse to the street and the absence of reason.”

As it stands today, Jordan’s parliament is elected under laws that ensure a pro-government assembly composed of tribal loyalists, and maintains an under-representation of Jordan’s cites, mostly inhabited by Palestinians.

The monarch has faced pressures for reform calls from the Islamists – the country’s largest political force to leftists and tribal figures – to relinquish his extensive powers, ranging from appointing cabinets, to dissolving parliament.

Nonetheless, Jordan has largely avoided much of the turmoil that has swept through the Arab world since January, with the protests that took place earlier in the year mainly about corruption and reform, rather than a desire to unseat Abdullah, who commands widespread popular support in the country.

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