Jordan: A Democratic Audit
Dr. Adli Hawwari
In the conclusions of the original democratic audit, I offered several possible explanations as to why democracy did not take root in Jordan. Did anything happen since then to make me reconsider my previous assessment in this regard? The brief answer is ‘no’. The Syrian crisis made it easier for the Jordanian government to justify its cautious approach to change the way the country is governed, and giving priority to security.
The conflict in Syria has receded considerably. The closed border crossing at Nasib-Jaber was reopened but operates for limited hours every day. Some Syrian refugees returned to Syria. Because the state of the economy in Jordan did not improve, mass protests returned to the streets against the governments of Hani al-Mulqi, and his successor Omar al-Razzaz. While these protests were mainly against taxes and deteriorating standards of living, there is a widespread realization that the system of appointing governments is responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the problems.
After years of silence and patience, Jordan saw in 2018 the return of protests against the economic conditions. A protest took place in front of the headquarters of the government to oppose a draft tax law that al-Mulqi’s government was planning to adopt. The protest led to the removal of al-Mulqi. He was succeeded by Omar al-Razzaz.
Some optimism prevailed after this change. The personal qualities of al-Razzaz were highlighted. This optimism, however, was not well-founded because dealing with the problems in Jordan is by changing the prime minister even though the problems is not that of individuals, but policies according to which the country is run. The individuals are replaced but the problems remain.
After a short period of optimism, people realized that counting on individuals was misplaced. Razzaz wanted to adopt a tax law that substantially remained as the one opposed by the people who suffered a great deal under tough economic conditions, but all their patience was not rewarded by an improvement in the state of the economy. The new government failed in its attempts to promote the law. Events organized by the government to explain the law made no difference. Ministers were unable to speak in some of these events.
In the meantime, a huge corruption scandal surfaced. It is related to tobacco and cigarette making. The scandal renewed the complaints about corruption in the country, especially because the person accused in the case, Awni Mutee, managed to leave the county. This was interpreted as having happened with help from some people in power.
Because of the economic conditions in Jordan will be the main source of tension in the relationship between the government and people. The matter affects the lives of ordinary citizens, and it has unified the people. Consequently, the card of pitting one section of the society against another could not be played in this situation.
Adli Hawwari (2020). Reluctant Liberalisation: A Democratic Audit of Jordan, 1989-2019. London: Ud Al -Nad Ltd.
- Jordan: A Democratic Audit