His Majesty King Abdullah has said that the January 23 elections and the upcoming parliamentary government are not the final destination in the reform process.
“There is no final destination on the reform path. Reform is a process,” the King said in a wide-ranging interview with The Jordan Times and Al Rai.
Outlining his vision for parliamentary governments, the King said he expects the emergence of mature political parties that eventually align in more distinctive right, left and centre, with each presenting their answers to issues of national concern. The experience, he explained, starts with parliamentary blocs that develop into a limited number of full-fledged parties with signature platforms.
He urged would-be candidates for the January 23 parliamentary elections and voters to participate actively in the process during the pre-vote and post-vote stages as the Kingdom braces for historic elections that would produce a parliamentary government whose lifespan would be parallel to that of the legislature.
His Majesty urged would-be candidates running in local constituency and the 27-seat national list to group in tickets that compete in the elections based on platforms. Meanwhile, voters should be involved in discussions with candidates over their suggestions to address the country’s problems in the various fields, the King said in the interview (see full text).
After the elections, winning lists that enjoy parliamentary majority have the responsibility to agree on a prime minister and a government, while the other blocs play the role of a “shadow government” and monitor the performance of the executive authority emerging from the coming parliament.
“What we seek to establish is a process whereby voters hold deputies and the government emerging from the coming House accountable, based on their platforms and the solutions they suggest to the various challenges,” King Abdullah said, adding that voters “need to understand that accountability and political participation do not end at the ballot boxes. It is an open-ended and continuous process under which voters constantly monitor deputies’ performance and put them before their responsibilities, the King noted.
Asked if there was a risk of instability if the House blocs that dominate the majority of seats and form governments break up amid polarisation among lawmakers, the King said that such a development is possible, but will be dealt with in line with democratic practices.
The governments emerging from parliaments are challenged to maintain the majority’s confidence throughout the four-year parliamentary session.
“These four years are the duration of governments and parliaments, the interval between each rotation of power. This means that Jordan practically relies on the coming House and government to implant the four-year rule in our political system and culture”.
The economic crisis and social unrest
Addressing last month’s protests triggered by the government’s decision to redirect fuel subsidies, His Majesty commended the peacefulness of the rallies staged by the opposition, voicing regret, however, over acts of vandalism and riots by a “small group” who tried to deprive others from their right to express themselves freely.
“I am proud that the majority of the rallies were peaceful and abiding by the Constitution and the law. They reflected a civilised manner of expression, proof that Jordan’s Arab Spring is different. They also signalled that our people have a high level of awareness, especially as reflected by the spontaneous initiatives taken by citizens themselves to prevent riots and sabotage of public and private property. Such actions proved how united the people and the state were in their keenness to preserve assets and achievements.”
The King listed short- and long-term measures to address the economic crisis Jordan is struggling with.
“The road ahead is clear: controlling government spending, solving the crisis of public finance, rationing consumption in general, and energy consumption in particular, delivering support to those entitled to receive it, stepping up efforts to counter corruption and enhance accountability, ending and preventing waste of public funds.”
In the long run, Jordan should reach a stage of self-reliance and stimulate creativity, innovation and a spirit of entrepreneurship, while economic legislation should be revisited to encourage local and foreign investment, among other measures.
His Majesty said his vision for the opposition is based on the need to institutionalise its role in parliament, after it participates in the elections, which determine who makes it to the House and who does not.
“We want the opposition to compete seriously for government and to play an active role in the Lower House in monitoring governments. Opposition forces need to actually serve as a ‘shadow government’, as in parliamentary democracies, and compete with incumbent governments in offering visions, programmes and solutions, and monitoring their performance, instead of isolating themselves and play the role of theorisers from afar.”
The Monarch noted that a national integrity system will be built, entailing a binding code of conduct for public servants to ensure the highest degree of responsibility, transparency and accountability in managing public funds.
“It should also guarantee justice in the distribution of resources and that anti-corruption efforts are expedited. Those who are proven involved in graft should be tried before the judiciary.”
Acknowledging that corruption is to be blamed for part of the economic crisis, His Majesty said efforts to address economic woes should not stop here.
“I would like to clarify that corruption has exacerbated the socio-economic crisis we are facing. Combating corruption — which is a top priority we are handling with uncompromising resolve — alone is not enough to solve the crisis as some think or say, for there is a need to take concrete measures related to public policies. However, I reiterate that we will not turn a blind eye to corruption or spare any effort to combat and uproot it.”