Wednesday, 21 August 2019 09:03 GMT

The risk that comes with brave political action is real

(MENAFN - Jordan Times) A youth activist from the north of Jordan eloquently described her concerns after the appointment of Omar Razzaz as prime minister and the announcement of his Cabinet members. She said 'I hope that two things do not happen: firstly, that the parliamentarians and their beneficiaries hound Razzaz and his government relentlessly to distract him from the reform agenda, and secondly that when, and if they do, he loses the stamina to stand up to them and, therefore, gives up and walks away.'

She went on to explain her fears utilising well-known and in my opinion much over used phrases: 'the Jordanian formula is difficult', 'there are calculations' and 'the deep state will not allow' and as I listened to her, I found myself drifting away in my thoughts to the meaning of the series of events that took place in Jordan over the past two weeks.

And it all boiled down to one question: are we seeing political 'will' shaping up into political 'action'?, and it occurred to me that the answer to the question may well be yes. The people of Jordan, from differing origins, tribal/familial backgrounds and economic ability, put their demands for reform to the regime, and His Majesty King Abdullah invested in them and publicly took their side. And that was political will at both of those levels.

But then the King went on and appointed Razzaz, seen as a reformist and consensus builder, as premier and followed that decision with a change of leadership and senior team at the Royal Court to send a strong political message. The new Royal Court chief is reportedly a well-respected Jordanian, who started life in a camp for Palestinian refugees but moved on to serve with the military intelligence for decades and is perhaps more associated with 'difficult' foreign policy assignments than local politics. Yousef Issawi, according to reports, knows Jordan and Jordanians well but is without an immediately recognizable political profile, agenda or mandate on the local level. With that appointment signalling the separation of authorities between the Royal Court and the government, immediately after appointing a government with a reform agenda, His Majesty delivered political action.

The natural next step would be that the government recognise this strong show of support from the King, pick up pace and diligently address pending economic files, as well as push forward a credible formula for political reform and good governance based in institutional foundations and driven by a holistic vision. As the popular demand was clearly for what they called 'wilaya aama' or unfettered policy mandate and jurisdiction for the government, then the government will need to navigate the road towards building the legal and procedural steps that logically would take us to that objective, including creating a hospitable environment for the organic growth of political parties, and a more representative elections and political parties laws.

There would be no magic wand that the government could wave, but the process and commitment shown by the government and Parliament to achieve that objective would need to convince the people that the government understands and buy into it and that it is in sight, clear and achievable.

But therein lies the conundrum.

The youth activist had accurately articulated a growing concern among Jordanians that loud protestations by certain elements in society, and the 'political stirrers' may not be ready to give up their privilege so quickly and that the government may fold under the pressure.

Indications of the first are already evident: the uproar over the makeup of the government, although some of that was understandable, the nit picking at the character of some ministers and their personal lives, some parliamentarians' emotional and almost comical pronouncements and demands of the government and political 'analysts' weaving a narrative of distrust around each government action or decision. We can only conclude, as the youth activist had tried to explain, the den of wasps is buzzing.

And the reality is that the King cannot be called upon to become embroiled in the details of how the relationship between the government and its detractors plays out. The government will have to build its own credibility to lead the executive authority and extract its mandate through hard work, and even more importantly political shrewdness, but without concession on principles, in handling Parliament, recognised politicians aspiring to a position and/or former officials upset at being side-lined

Jordanians, in parallel, are at a crossroad. They can either follow their declaration of political will by collectively joining the King in putting their weight behind the government and giving its members an acceptable grace period to collect their thoughts, map out their plans, establish their partnerships and begin implementation, or they can follow and feed off the relentless critics in negatively framing every step of government action.

The dilemma understandably highlights the juxtaposition between real societal concern during this time of political transition and the need for everyone to recognise that we are where we are with regards to the impact of years, if not decades, of mismanagement and that we must now allow change to begin.

The government needs to show that it can follow up on the King's lead by taking clear action to politically and legislatively cement the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial authorities and establish the democratic parameters for political representation and expression as well as the pathways for meritocracy.

The people also need to recognise that with the King placing his political weight behind their demands and the government declaring that it will work to achieve those demands, they need to further invest in those unprecedented political overtures by giving Razzaz and his team the freedom and leeway to carry out their mandate within an acceptable time frame.

The consequences of any alternative are unthinkable and may mean not only the government losing heart and stamina under the relentless pressure, but also sending a signal to the regime that change is too risky politically. It will also mean that 'Jordan's difficult formula' will continue to reign and with it the rentier mentality, the narrative of exclusionism and the illogical and selfish entitlement mindset that had led us to where we are today. A show of political maturity from the people of Jordan, like that exhibited during the demonstrations, at this juncture is critical and will determine the success or failure of reform efforts and the country's long-term stability.


The risk that comes with brave political action is real

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