The National - News
Jordanian Parliament debates big reforms to constitution
Jordan’s Parliament has debated reforms to the country’s constitution that could significantly alter government in the 100-year-old kingdom.
Officials say the reforms, suggested by the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System, could revitalise the monarchy and decentralise power.
The committee, appointed by King Abdullah II on June 11, drafted the proposals to revamp existing political parties and electoral law.
On Monday, Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh said the draft legislation would pave the way for a prime minister being elected by a parliamentary majority, rather than being chosen by the monarch, a main goal of the reformist agenda favoured by a wide variety of political parties in the kingdom.
“It allows the leader of the country [the king] to go towards party-based governments,” he told the assembly.
King Abdullah has long expressed a desire for Jordan to become a constitutional monarchy. In 2007, he told ABC News that “monarchies have to modernise, and a way of modernising is to do these political reform issues that will give people a much larger say in the way their countries go”.
The new proposals include the creation of a national security council, led by the monarch, which would fall under government jurisdiction, a move some experts and politicians consider to be a check on the monarchy’s power.
“We are intent on making a qualitative jump in the political and parliamentarian life,” the king told the committee’s chairman, former prime minister Samir Rifai. He said he wanted reforms to “enlarge the base of participation in decision-making”.
Mr Rifai leads a 92-member committee which the king has asked to find “consensually agreed-on draft laws that guarantee gradual transition into the full realisation of future goals and the fair representation of citizens across the nation”.
Reforms could also increase the representation of women and political parties in an expanded 138-member assembly, and the minimum candidacy age for elected deputies could be lowered to 25.
The Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System has sent the reforms to the House Legal Committee for review.
Parliament Speaker Abdel Karim Al Daghmi said that Parliament, through a legal committee, would work to open a national dialogue on the reforms with all political parties, civil-society institutions and citizens.
“The committee will start working on constitutional amendments before working on election laws so that the laws will later be in harmony with the constitution,” he said. The completion of the constitution, he said, would pave the way for reform laws.
Mr Al Daghmi said on Facebook that Jordan is “persistently seeking to develop partisan life, to advance the general political situation and move forward in a new phase of modernisation”.
The reform effort comes as Jordan deals with a surge in unemployment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit the country’s tourism revenue hard.
Unemployment is “the biggest threat” to stability in the kingdom, Jordan’s Minister of Finance, Mohamad Al Ississ, said in September.
“The numbers keep us up at night,” he said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.
The kingdom is engaged in a number of economic reforms aimed at encouraging growth.
This month, the International Monetary Fund called for “continued high-quality reforms to enhance the efficiency and transparency of public finances”, after revising its 2021 growth forecast down from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent.
“Despite the challenging circumstances brought on by the pandemic, sound policies have helped maintain macroeconomic stability,” it said.