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د عدلي الهواري

للمساهمة في التراكم المعرفي وتعزيز التفكير النقدي

  للمساهمة في التراكم المعرفي وتعزيز التفكير النقدي
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Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan

Preface

Dr. Adli Hawwari


Although there was a promising start in 1989, it did not lead to further democratization in the country. Thirty years after the ‘resumption of our democratic life’, Jordan cannot be considered a democratic country.

د. عدلي الهواري

On 8 November 2019, Jordan marked the thirtieth anniversary of holding the first parliamentary elections in twenty-five years, initiating what many people hoped to be the transformation of the country’s political system into a democratic one.

The elections were held after King Hussein declared in October 1989 that the country would return to ‘our democratic life.’ The decision was in response to protests that erupted in April 1989, known as the April Uprising (Habbat Nisan).

King Hussein died in February 1999, but the process he started continued after his son, Abdullah II, became the king. Apart from delaying the elections due in 2001 until 2003, parliamentary elections were held every four years.

The initial stage of change was promising. It produced an assertive House of Deputies (HoD). Thirty years later, the governments in Jordan are still formed and dismissed at the discretion of the king. The basic freedoms are restricted. People are punished for exercising them.

At the end of 2010, mass protests took place in several Arab countries, including Jordan, to demand reforms. The protests in Tunisia led to the removal of the president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Similarly, the president of Egypt, Husni Mubarak, was removed.

Morocco acted pre-emptively and introduced some changes. Jordan also made some constitutional amendments, but they were cosmetic. In Bahrain, the protests were suppressed by force. In Yemen, the removal of the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was negotiated.

Islamic parties participated in the elections organized after the removal of the presidents in Tunisia and Egypt. They achieved good results. Egypt had its first democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi.

These developments undermined the claims of incompatibility between democracy and both Islam and Islamism. However, the debate about whether the Islamists can be trusted continued.

The change in Tunisia and Egypt gave reasons to be optimistic that the Arab world entered a new era that would lead to democracy. However, the bloody conflicts in Libya and Syria prompted people in countries like Jordan to refrain from persisting with the demands.

After Muncef Marzūqi served as an interim president in Tunisia, a man from the Bourguiba regime, Beji Caid Essebsi, was elected as the new president. In Egypt, the army staged a coup against the elected Islamic president. It was organised to make it appear as if the army sided with the masses revolting against the president. A general, who was serving as the defence minister, Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, became the president. He deprived the country of the freedoms it enjoyed after the removal of Mubarak.

What was referred to as ‘the Arab spring’ unleashed debates about whether the protests were genuine movements by the people, or organised by Western countries to break up the states in the Arab World. Because the Islamic parties participated in the elections and succeeded in Egypt to win the presidency, the debates continued about whether the Islamists could be trusted.

The conflict in Syria became an example used by other Arab rulers to warn their people against demanding change to avoid pushing the country into a conflict that can tear it apart as happened in Syria. The observers of the political scene in the Arab world thought the waves of protests in 2010-2011 were probably a once in a lifetime event. Less than a decade later, protests broke out again.

In 2019, mass protests returned to the streets and squares of Sudan and Algeria. Tunisians elected a new president, Kais Saied, who was relatively unknown before the campaign started. The protesters in Sudan managed to force the removal of Omar al-Bashir, with help from the armed forces. In Algeria, the protests prevented the attempt to elect Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term.

The economic policies of two governments in Jordan led to the return of protests in Jordan. New measures in Lebanon that included imposing a fee on using the communications application, WhatsApp, was the breaking point in Lebanon. Protests erupted to demand change. In Iraq, demonstrations broke out to demand the transformation of the sectarian political system. It was set up in 2003 after the American invasion of Iraq and the removal of its president, Saddam Hussein, under the pretext of a potential threat of weapons of mass destruction that few believed they existed because international arms inspectors ensured that such weapons were destroyed, and Iraq was under tight sanctions

Within less than a decade, the Arab world saw contradictory developments. Egypt tasted freedom briefly before it went back to being ruled with an iron fist. The Tunisian people surprised the rest of the Arab world three times. They were the first to remove their president for life. Yet, they elected a new president from the Bourguiba regime. Then they elected a president whose victory showed that all parties in the country did not fully appreciate what the people want.

After protests in Jordan forced the removal of the PM, Hani al-Mulqi, in 2018, Omar al-Razzaz succeeded him. He was in the past a senior official at the World Bank. His appointment was presented as one that would reverse the policies pursued by al-Mulqi. It soon became apparent that such an expectation was unrealistic. He pursued similar policies.

Al-Razzaz faced the longest ever strike in Jordan. It was by the teachers in the public sector who previously went on strike and had an agreement that was supposed to improve their salaries. However, the deal was not implemented. The teachers went on a strike that the government failed to break. It ended after the government conceded and reached an agreement to satisfy the demands of the teachers, which included improvements in their salaries that were too low to cover the costs of basic living.

Although the strike had no political demands, it is clear that the economic problems causing hardships are inseparable from the way the country is ruled. Governments come and go at the discretion of the king. Yet, every government is blamed for policies that are implemented with the approval of the king.

Although there was a promising start in 1989, it did not lead to further democratization in the country. Thirty years after the ‘resumption of our democratic life’, Jordan cannot be considered a democratic country.

Therefore, I revisit the Islam-democracy incompatibility paradigm to re-examine the claims again in the light of the developments seen during 2010-2019 which produced mixed results that can lend support for the old claims of incompatibility.

Adli Hawwari

London

January 2020


Author’s Notes

A Note on Using The Qur’anic Verses

I provide the verse in Arabic and then an English translation. It does not matter how a certain word, such as shura, is translated in the various translations of the Qur’an, whether consultation or deliberation. My discussion is based on the Arabic text, not the translation. I decided to rely on the translation by Tarif Khalidi (2009) because he used ‘measured modern English’, and chose not to ‘force a meaning’ on ambiguous verses’. He has also sought to achieve a ‘balance between the familiarly modern and the alienating archaic, while preferring at all times as literal a rendering as possible’ (p. xxi). This may help make the translation more accessible. However, relying on a translation of the Qur’an carries the risk of basing a discussion on meanings and connotations in a foreign language. Therefore, I reiterate that my discussion is based on the verses in Arabic.

Transliteration System

This book was based on a PhD thesis which required the use of a transliteration system. Arabic words and phrases in the thesis were transliterated according to the standards of The International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES). The only variation was to underline the letter which required a dot under it. If proper names were not listed in IJMES’s wordlist, the most common spelling was used. However, the updated version of the book has additional material without transliteration.


Adli Hawwari (2020). Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan, 1989-2019 : A Critical Reexamination of the Incompatibility Paradigm. London: Ud Al-Nad.

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