After Egypt's protests, Jordan's king faces more assertive public
Despite skepticism in Jordan about King Abdullah's appointment Tuesday of a new prime minister, there were no major protests. But a small rally at a government building Wednesday spoke to a fresh willingness to push publicly for reforms.
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“No, no, no: we are not asking names,” said engineer Khaled Ramadan. “We are asking [to change] the mode, how the prime minister [is] appointed. Not: we are with Maarouf or against Maarouf; we are asking [for] a new system.”Skip to next paragraph
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Is the political will there?
It's impossible to guess what kind of immediate reforms will be necessary to keep protest in check, and whether the new government will have the political will or ability to implement them.
One demand was clear: a new elections law that would create a more representative National Assembly. Jordan's current laws restrict the activity of political parties and aggressively gerrymander electoral districts, ensuring that the Assembly is dominated by east-bank Jordanians, who are typically elected based on tribal loyalties rather than policies. The resulting parliaments are widely seen as unrepresentative, ineffective, and corrupt.
Aburumman said he hoped not only for an elections law, but for a system in which the cabinet would be chosen by the largest bloc in the assembly, rather than by the king – though most agree the king is unlikely to give up that control.
Muslim Brotherhood view
Abdellatif Arabiat, head of the Shura Council of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, said his organization would probably be content if there were a more democratically elected National Assembly, and it were given more say in the running of the country, as opposed to the current system, where almost all decisions are made by the cabinet.
The protesters near the prime ministry made numerous other demands, including a review of the restrictive laws governing public gatherings, the creation of a “supply ministry” to control commodity prices, and more democratic management of public universities.
“We are planning to make these protests week after week, or month after month, until we believe the government can reach to a level to make change which we want,” said Mr. Qudah.
Popular anger is unpredictable, but it seems likely that the biggest player in determining whether protesters return to the streets will be the Brotherhood. So far, Aburumman said, the Brotherhood has participated in protests without taking a leading role.
“They still tried to open something there with the regime, trying to give a positive indicator that they don't want to change the regime, but they want to participate in improving the regime, in improving the political life,” he said. “That is the new strategy of the Brotherhood. But I think if they find doors closed, they will go to the street again and they will change their tools to be a more aggressive, strong opposition.”
Mr. Arabiat, however, says his group is taking its cue from Jordanians.
“It is up to the people,” he says. “If they approve the main [government] line for reform, I think [protests] will decrease, but if not, they will increase.”
Arabiat says the Brotherhood would push for a serious reform program, but that it was also committed to working with other opposition groups.
“We are reformists in an evolutionary process, not revolutionary; working according to the Constitution; working with the whole people. … We are working for a real democracy,” he says. “We are doing the will of the people. The people will be with us if we work with them and toward their own objectives.”