A Royal Decree was issued to recall the Parliament for an extraordinary session that’s expected to last for about a month. Of the 14 pieces of legislation awaiting deliberation include the Press and Publication Law, Anti-Terrorism Law, amendments to legislation regarding the banning of the death penalty and Municipalities Law that is supposed to come ahead of Municipal elections some time this fall.
Some of these laws have been quite controversial and some of them have a hint of serious political reform.
Last March before Parliament last went on vacation the Prime Minister included a provision to the Press and Publication Law, or rather removed the clause that prohibits the jailing of journalists. This is not something that the Press Association will take lightly; no organization likes an erosion of its powers. A Jordanian journalist is defined by the association as one who is a member of the association. So this is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation on the table right now.
The Anti-Terrorism law on the other hand is probably the most controversial. Jordan is following the dangerous footsteps of other nations like the US and UK that have passed “Patriot Act” type laws that allow indefinite jailing; this one is called the “National Security Law”. It’s easier to pass such laws in the midst of national fear though I suppose an argument to be made is that fear has declined since last year’s attacks. To be honest I’m not so sure that we actually need such a law when I’m guessing it already happens without it. Then again maybe we’re just going to be making official what was once an unofficial policy.
Any amendment to legislation regarding the abolishment of the death penalty is going to get shot down in parliament without a doubt in my mind.
The problem is always two fold these days: the government and the lower house; ironically the latter being much worse than the former. The government is made up of what I consider semi-reformists and in the face of a conservative and quite frankly backward elected lower house, part of me wishes they had the freedom to do what they wanted simply because parliament is so resistant to the idea of reforming anything. But at the same time things like the anti-terrorism laws are just one of the signs that we still need that sense of checks and balances; it doesn’t work the way it should but it does its job unintentionally.
I’m not sure how different things will be until the lower house is reformed and until political parties become competitive and encourage a shift in the social paradigms. Until then I really believe that holding lower house elections this month, six months from now or even a year from now will yield the exact same results. With the absence of strong parties with strong platforms the design is simple: tribal elders will get together and pick the oldest guy who can read and write and even recite poetry and that’s their man (for the most part). And these are the people in charge of approving, rejecting and/or amending reforms: the league of extraordinary gentlemen.