In Jordan’s 2020 parliamentary elections the king wins hands down

The king, who of course, did not contest the elections, nevertheless, won hands down.

Jordan's King Abdullah meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan March 12, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD ABU GHOSH/POOL)
Jordan's King Abdullah meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan March 12, 2018.
Few political outcomes have shamed the prophecies of security officials, political scientists and commentators than the ability of the Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom to survive and prosper.
During the 1950s, it was “inevitable” that the Jordanian monarchy, headed by the grandson of the sharif of Mecca, would inevitably fall in the face of rising pan-Arabism personified by the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser who undermined King Hussein at every turn. The result: Nasser died a premature death at the age of 52, three years after one of the most resounding military defeats ever faced by a political leader. King Hussein went on to rule Jordan for nearly 30 years after him.
In the 1960s, it was the turn of the Palestinians to declare the inevitability of the monarchy’s demise to a chorus of widespread consent from once again, heads of Western security services, journalists and political scientists.
The second biggest Palestinian faction at the time, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, even turned this forecast into its logo. The logo features an arrow that begins in Amman and ends in Tel Aviv to describe what the liberation of Palestine entails: In order to conquer Tel Aviv, the reactionary Western stooge regime had to be felled first. After all, the PFLP was Palestinian, pan-Arab and Marxist, and as such, was on the right side of history.
Not only did the demise of the kingdom in 1970 seem inevitable, it looked downright imminent. The PFLP was both busy hijacking planes and landing them in Jordanian airports, while more armed Palestinians than Jordanian military personnel roamed the streets of Amman.
Yet by the summer of 1971, it was the Palestinian factions who were totally defeated by the Jordanian army, which remained loyal to the. So resounding was the defeat  that hundreds of the surviving Palestinian terrorists fled westward into the hands of the Israelis rather than risk the retribution they feared from the Hashemite Kingdom.
Nervous political officers in the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv felt the same way when the First Intifada broke out in December 1987. The king was indeed worried that the uprising would spread into the kingdom, where the Palestinians were clearly the majority and at the height of the intifada, announced the “cutting of ties” with the West Bank, one of the palpable ramifications of which was to stop issuing Jordanian passports to Palestinians in the area.
There were indeed massive demonstrations during the first years of the intifada in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, some of which ended in the death of both demonstrators and security personnel, but few would have predicted that massive Palestinian protest would in the ensuing years become a part of the past.
Henceforth, it was the Bedouin of the south of Jordan who demonstrated, sometimes violently, not the Palestinians.
Passivity among Jordan’s Palestinian majority did not bring an end to the challenges faced by the monarchy, nor an end of expectations of its “inevitable” fall. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein’s widespread popularity in Jordan aroused fear that the population would turn against its king. The fears were probably exaggerated, but in any event, dissipated in the face of Saddam’s defeat in Kuwait.
In 2014, it was the dramatic rise of ISIS and its success in controlling much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria that posed a challenge to the kingdom and raised once again the specter of the “inevitable” demise of the Jordanian monarchy – and one more threat that never materialized.
Between these peaks, political scientists were always predicting that modernization – the growth of the middle class within Jordan based on merit rather than lineage or genealogy –would “inevitably” turn against the king and bring about the demise of the Jordanian monarchy that lacked the oil revenues of the Gulf kingdoms to buy its citizenry off.
The recent elections to the Jordanian Parliament, as indeed most of the elections before them, showed how wrong was this “inevitable” reading, based on the middle class revolution in the West.
The king, who of course, did not contest the elections, nevertheless, won hands down.
Ostensibly, Jordan is home to tens of parties and movements who would like to send King Abdullah (Hussein’s son) packing (probably to London where he was raised) to create a Jordanian Republic, or, as the largest organized opposition to the king, the Muslim Brotherhood and its party arm, the Islamic Action Front, to turn Jordan into a theocracy. These parties include pan-Arabists, socialists and other forms of “progressives,” a mixture of the two and lists linked to Palestinian factions.
Though many of these parties boast the adjective “popular” in their names, the results of the elections show, to the king’s delight that they are hollow shells. The Jordanian Parliament is 130 strong – 115 of whom are elected and 15 women are appointed by the king. They are usually women who secured the most votes among the women candidates, but lost the elections. Of the 115 seats contested, the largest and most organized party, the Islamic Action Front, won only five seats.
None of the other ideological parties secured any seat running on their own and most of the lists (rather than parties) featured candidates from one locality only.
Ten years after the Arab Spring, it seems for the time being at least that Jordan will continue to be the conservative mainstay it has been since Black September days in which the Palestinian factions fought against the Hashemite Kingdom 50 years ago.
Evidently, the majority of Jordanians reason better a conservative king than “progressives” such as Nasser, “socialist” Ba’athist Saddam Hussein, the “revolutionary” Palestinian factions and the Muslim Brotherhood, all adjectives Western academics and ideologues in their folly have affixed to these leaders and movements.
Can one blame Jordanians for preferring a king to these despots?
The writer is a professor in the Departments of Political Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University and senior research associate at BESA Center for Strategic Studies.