There is going to be a great deal of political analysis regarding HM King Abdullah’s appointment of Marouf Al Bakhit as the new Prime Minister of Jordan and the subsequent and relatively expected exit of Samir Rifai. When it comes to Jordan, such analysis is not only expect an hour after an appointment, but analysts are expected to make bold predictions as to the future, which is generally knowledge no one possess. I will make no such claims here.
Much will also be said of Bakhit himself given that he was Prime Minister only a few years ago. Appointed soon after the Amman bombings in late 2005, his main objective was to restore a sense of stability and security in a country that was shaken by a new reality of domestic terrorism. His exit was abrupt in late 2007 and quickly after one of the most fraudulent elections in modern Jordanian history. Next to those elections (municipal and parliamentary), the most controversial thing to emerge in those years was the so-called “Casino deal”, which was essentially a proposal to establish a casino on Jordanian soil – a deal that went sour very quickly the moment it went public and resulted in a great deal of backtracking on the government’s part, even paying out money to the casino’s foreign investors.
That said, there will be much talk that there is no chance of political reform or reform in general under Bakhit as he has already been tried and tested in the role of the Prime Minister. There will be talk that his security mindset will see a dramatic increase in security forces on the streets of Jordan, and a more hardliner approach. This is similar to the same kind of talk that emerged after the Amman bombings when it was expected that Bakhit, a military man, would essentially militarize the country – a move that did not transpire at all. There will also be talk of his status with the Muslim Brotherhood and their political arm, the Islamic Action Front.
A few things need to be realized with all of this in mind.
First, it is difficult for any serious political observer in the country (or outside it) to hang the 2007 elections on Bakhit. It is widely recognized that the Prime Ministry’s role had been massively eroded during an era where the Royal Court held an immense deal of executive power under Bassem Awadallah, but more importantly and significantly, the mukhabarat’s political interference under Mohammad Dahabi when it came to security and specifically the elections. The latter’s fear-mongering tactics resulted in the direct orchestration of what is considered to be the most fraudulent election in the country’s history. In political circles, a disgruntled Bakhit is said to have handed in his resignation the day after the parliamentary election in November 2007 (his official resignation was accepted five days after the election). In this era, talk of reform was nearly impossible to see materialize in the shadow of the mukhabarat.
Some three years later, the political dynamics have changed quite a bit. The executive was, whether people recognize it or not, fairly empowered during Nader Dahabi’s term (with his brother being the head of the mukhabarat), and maintained the status quo under Samir Rifai, a year of which saw a relative separation between the political sphere and the security apparatus, and likely to the latter entity’s dissatisfaction.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood. Bakhit’s relationship with the group has always been tense, but there’s no such thing as any one who comes out of the security apparatus in the country who has a “good” relationship with the group to begin with. Both parties are always suspicious of each other. The organization has already voiced its discontent over the appointment but this is also a group that generally won’t like any Prime Minister who is appointed and doesn’t come with a beard. Moreover, the group’s status has changed dramatically in the three years since Bakhit’s first term. They have relatively self-destructed during this time with constant party bickering over power balances between the hawks and the doves, and a self-induced exile from the political landscape of the politically-charged 2010 year. Their boycott of the election essentially stifled their own voice in the political spectrum of the Kingdom and recent protests have been a relative attempt to get back in the game, but of course it is always easier for the Muslim Brotherhood to organize a protest – their problem is with their sense of politicking.
Right now, the new Bakhit government is in a wait-and-see period. To what extent he will able to work with the current parliament and bring about some reforms are still up in the air. It is too soon to judge or predict, especially if those predictions are predicated on his last government’s performance.
But looking to the future, I will say this.
Bakhit’s government has probably been loaded with what is likely the most stringent of responsibilities in over a decade. Tunisia and Egypt have written a new chapter for the region and the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics have dramatically changed in the span of four weeks. The old strategies, which were already growing obsolete, are now officially dead and Jordan must forge a new path if the state hopes to survive in the coming years. The shelf-life of the appeasement policy is quickly expiring and the only long-lasting road to self-preservation is reform. Be it political, economic or social reform – the state must first reform itself. It must shift its traditional paradigm to a whole other realm, and emerge with the true and genuine belief that it must introduce dramatic changes with the approval of the people, if it hopes to sustain and maintain its grip on power.
An over-reliance on American funding has damaged the country’s ability to preserve balances. Recent pay raises to public sector in an effort to appease specific segments of the population, cannot be helped but be directly connected to a US pledge to increase its package to Jordan by a $100 million. We need to be weaned off this drug and get back on the road to self-sustainability. Trans-Jordanians, who have demonstrated their wrath in the past year to a great extent, are seeing an entire generation of farmers in search of government and army jobs, simply because opportunities in those sectors have increased due to foreign aid. The agricultural lands of 10 years ago are now brick, stone and cement of commercial buildings and residencies. That generation is dead. And now, in its stead, the Jordanian state is faced with a large constituency of public sector employees who are paid low wages and subsequently disgruntled at their financial status quo in an increasingly expensive marketplace.
Foreign aid should be going towards job creation in the private sector; fueling entrepreneurship and startups, creating proper infrastructure for foreign investment and decreasing bureaucracies – all of which help create better-paying jobs. Spending that money any where else is wasteful and a miscarriage of long-run sustainability.
Bakhit’s government is the mark of a country at a crossroad, it can either forge a new path towards true reform and genuine growth, or simply tread the same road that can only lead to one destination: it’s inevitable self-destruction. It can either adapt to the new region order, or suffer the consequences of falling behind. Reforms outlined in the National Agenda need to be revisited, revised and rejuvenated for the new decade. This government has more than just an ordinary opportunity that comes with a new page – it carries the responsibility of writing a new page in Jordanian history and changing the very course and direction of the entire nation. To squander that opportunity will not only be wasteful as it usually is with every new government – it will end in assured disaster this time.
This government, and the entire state, needs to re-approach and reconnect with the people. Civil society needs to be brought in to the folds. Public debate and input needs to emerge on a massive scale. Freedom of speech and expression need to be fueled and maintained permanently. Accountability and transparency needs to become the government’s new ethos; the corrupt need to be weeded out within an established system of accountability that does this on a consistent and permanent level – not for window-dressing and appeasement purposes. The veils of world politics are being brought down in the information age where transparency will not just play a starring role – it will be the entire show. The whole ballgame.
There needs to be recognition that this isn’t about Tunisia and this isn’t about Egypt. It’s about what comes next. Not for them, but for us. The state needs to realize that no one protesting on the streets of Jordan have been calling for regime change but rather a change in government and real reforms. And that is an opportunity. It desperately needs to be recognized.
No one is looking for a permanent revolution. But we are all waiting for a permanent evolution.
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Do what the National Committee of Retired Military (Veterans) said and Jordan will rise again.
a similar article was on the economist this morning, yours as seen from inside is more confused, anyway jordan is not on a crossroad, this means it still have options, as you see jordan has three immediate situations that needs to deal with: water, palestinians and how to finance itself.yes palestinians that you totaly ignored in your article those who are the only real threat to the regime in jordan(1970)…… if albakhit is good or bad, if he will manage to communicate with moslim brothers or not, if he came to make a change to jordanians or to protect the regime, it’s irrelevant because at this point much serious situation needed to be delt with, and the way to go forward needs concentration and absolutly NO transparency….
a similar article was on the economist this morning, yours as seen from inside is more confused, anyway jordan is not on a crossroad, this means it still have options, as you see jordan has three immediate situations that needs to deal with: water, palestinians and how to finance itself.yes palestinians that you totaly ignored in your article those who are the only real threat to the regime in jordan(1970)â€¦â€¦ if albakhit is good or bad, if he will manage to communicate with moslim brothers or not, if he came to make a change to jordanians or to protect the regime, itâ€™s irrelevant because at this point much serious situation needed to be delt with, and the way to go forward needs concentration and absolutly NO transparencyâ€¦.
no one is looking for permanent solution
Excellent post, Nas. Thanks for the perspective.
It is simply absurd to expect anything from someone that has been tried before. Even if neither the casino gate nor the elections rigging were his “own” doing, it still implies that he is either weak or simply not qualified. Let’s not forget shawerma gate and the water pollution fiasco where THOUSANDS of Jordanians were hospitalized. I mean, at that time, I believe the king had to cut his cali vacation.
Persons are irrelevant at this stage, except for one, and that one has no will to peruse true reform. Jordan has more qualified people than all of this choice and the choices that were made before. The finger needs to be pointed at the right person. The dissatisfaction might have been directed at rifai or the government and its policies, but it is simply a case of burying one’s head in the sand if we don’t understand that all the attacks,or most of them, were proxy attacks. The enabler of the government policies is not Rifai. Neither Rifai nor Bkahit were elected. They were selected. Which selection in the last 11 years worked well? Lets not be delusional and try to convince ourselves that this will be any different. Appointing a “new” government is simply a regime’s policy. It failed. The process failed. The strategy Failed. It “worked” for the regime. I believe it will no longer will. I has never worked for us and never will.
More to come, as I just woke up and we are literally buried in snow 🙂
What’s happening in Jordan is horrible. This is a very bad move. The next thing to watch is how the parliament will react to the new government. Most probably, it will pass the vote of confidence with a comfortable margin again.
The case for Bakhit is really hard to make. I have no clue why he was chosen when there are so many big question marks surrounding him. First, the 2007 elections, which happened under his watch no matter what you’d like to believe (btw, he refused to let international monitors in, and it’s only customary and the expected norm to hand in the government resignation once elections are held). Second, there’s the casino deal which also happened under his watch. Ok, maybe he wasn’t involved, but it still happened under his watch. Finally, you have the tensions with the IAF and the fact that the guy comes from a military background which sends a disturbing signal given the current circumstances in the region.
I only hope that the parliament redeems itself by withholding the vote of confidence.
jordanians need education at this stage, democracy will never come at our life time, secularism is the basic condition for democracy, there is no place for islamists in democracy, islam is against democrasy and modern state.
Remind me again, why would a total regime change be a bad idea?
People are not demanding the King to step down, but maybe they should! For the first time in many years this seems possible. It may take some more years to mature, but recent events give us hope that this is coming.
Freedom is possible, even in Jordan!
Water is obviously the biggest problem. Jordan will need massive desalinisation plants, powered by nuclear or solar energy. I believe a start has been made on this.
Does Jordan grow enough food to feed itself?
Do the Palestinians have full citizenship and voting rights? If not, why not?
Several European states are constitutional monarchies, and this kind of arrangement works very well, although it is hard to justify it logically.
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lol your blog is attracting so many trolls. I agree that this change is routine. Another face of the same coin. But if you really thought about it, I do not think the regime is bad. Remember that the king is protecting the interests of people from different origins. Even though some laws lean to specific groups, the situation is generally stable.
You need to remember that people in Jordan only care about themselves. They do not think or want to think of themselves as just Jordanians. They need and want to find ways to separate themselves. “I am karaki” “I am Salti” “I am of Palestinian origin”. A power vacuum would be very scary and people here do not understand. Look at out PMs, some do not have a clue about anything! They’re chosen and generally approved by the tribe according to their relations NOT their skills. The same thing would apply to anybody elected democratically even in higher positions. An example is the parliament.
I would like the situation to remain as it is. The king is good and we couldn’t ask for anything more considering the local Jordanian mindset. If reform was to come, it would have happened a long time ago. The alternatives as I said are not promising so the situation is currently fine.
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@mohamad: if you would go through the region’s history in the past 60 years, you will see that every time syria,jordan (in its past form) and lebanon borders were in chaotic situation, israel gained more land. although me also dont like the form of our monarchy, but unfortunatly without them jordan can risk alot. what I’m saying is to transform our monarchy in the form of the british one, and those who will run the country can be elected by the population.
@neda.alzoubi: I did not “ignore palestinians” in my post. When I say the word “Jordanian” it includes people from all origins who reside within these borders. moreover, the issues you listed are exactly that: issues. And there many more you failed to mention. This is not what I meant by options and crossroads. I am referring to the overall path the country is on, and what lies ahead. Either journey will naturally encompass all of those issues and more. thanks
@Mohanned: regarding your first paragraph. i agree that every government has its mishaps, but both the shawarma and the water pollution were due to regulatory failures. these happen all over the world, and pointing them out as examples as to why that government was a failure is to expect too much of a government in general. those kind of mistakes happen, and its about how a government reacts to them that matters. i think both were handled fairly well by the state given the circumstances.
regarding your second paragraph. the elections were not under his authority, and that includes pretty much every aspect of running them, such as letting in monitors. the mukhabarat ran that show brilliantly and in such a situation, i don’t care how much authority you think a PM has, he will have difficulty going head-to-head with the security apparatus on that one.
for the casino deal, i think pretty soon we’re going to see more information being brought to light on that one. this is perhaps the single most silliest issue i have ever known in a country where we must deal with some rather serious issues.
government appointment has been here since the country was established, not just in the past 11 years under king abdullah. it has its advantages and its disadvantages. for me personal, as naseem tarawnah, i am a believer in a constitutional monarchy where governments are formed by ruling political parties. i am all for that. but we are obviously not there yet. political parties lack maturity, and the rest of the system is broken – from elections laws to the parliamentary system, etc. so while i am all for that constitutional monarchy to emerge, i am also forced to recognize that should it be permitted tomorrow we would likely end up with one of the most defunct governments in history. sure, it will be of the will of the people, but we must recognize that this would destabilize the country.
in order for this system to emerge, the current system needs to be fixed from the top down, and new foundations need to be established in my opinion. this is what needs to be happening now in terms of political reform.
thank you for your two piasters
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We agree in principle, but we we diverge is that I don’t believe that the same process will yield any better results. GIGO, if you will. The process itself is broken and corrupt. Hasn’t worked and never will. Mindset at the top is reflected through the choices being made and such choices are not very encouraging. Bakhit can be great and all, but all you mentioned above proves that he is weak. It maybe that he didn’t find enough support from the top at that time, but that says a lot about the top. Our county,present, and future are not a nintendo game(yeah,eminem, i just did that).
From my post on 7iber:
“the inability to deliver on promises either reflects a state of crippling weakness or utter apathy. Whatever your pick is, reality remains that we, the people, are paying the price for the actions and the inaction of the few who are â€œrunningâ€ the show in the country. ”
a billion dollars to upgrade our f-16 fleet when the budget is in shambles tells you something about boys and their toys, by toys i mean both the planes and our country.
Thanks Nas for another well written post. I have several points to add to the discussion:
1. I honestly didn’t expect the appointment of Bakheet for all the reasons u list above. But I am giving him a chance because u r absolutely right about the role of Bassem Awadallah and Mohmd Dahabi – two people in my opinion who did us great damage and still do!!
2. I am a strong believer in the leadership of the Hashemites. They r the unifying factor for the country and even though some may argue that they may have some shortcomings, still they r very close to their people and work relentlessly for the good and future of Jordan.
3. Al rifai gov letter of designation was a complete and comprehensive road map to set things right. Implementation required hard work and the ability to take difficult unpopular decisions. But it also required continuity, ie the gov to work for at least 3 years for the benefits to emerge. I personally felt extremely optimistic that for the 1st time the Gov, the Royal Court and the security apparatus were all working from the same sheet. And the responsibility and “wilayeh” returned to the Gov. But unfortunately the resistance was too great and AlRifai was viciously fought from day one with one crisis being created after the other keeping him distracted with putting out fires while the programme suffered. The high ceiling of freedom that was given to the media and the general public made things worse with irresponsible chants that deteriorated into digesting personal attacks. (mohmd dahabi did his brother a huge Favor by keeping a tight lid on the media especially the websites). I will not get into who i think created these constant crises or why. That is just my theory. But as a Jordanian citizen who is fearful for the future of my country, I say that it is essential to allow the new Gov to work properly without the distraction of useless side battles. There is a lot at stake.
4. As far as I know, there’s nothing in the constitution that prevents His Majesty from asking an elected member of parliament to form a government. But I agree with comments, we are not there yet but we r on our way. People need to mature first and develop a sense of democracy and acceptance of the other before we get there.
All Jordanians need all their rights and proper means of becoming educated. Ignorance and greed / corruption are destroying our country, and soon we will have nothing left except the aid of others to live on.
If we are out of suitable men, why not a woman PM for a change? I am sure some are qualified ..
@Jamal: Islam and true democracy do not contradict that much as some claim..
@ The Real Fee Jordanian: If you would kindly explain what does (rise again) exactly mean, with special emphasis on again.
@ Neda Al-Zoabi and/or Shree: Chauvinism needs to go, from a pragmatic point of view (since morality does not seem to be an issue to you), it won’t get you any where. What happened in the 70s is the destruction of the left, globally, regionally, and domestically. The alliances and sympathies at least were across right wings on one side and progressive left on the other, and those alliances crossed the lines of Jordanian vs. Palestinian that you and your likes prefer to live with, because that is how you survive.
Technocratic solutions are good for broken water pipes, extending a telephone line, and things of that sort. Diminishing failure in water management and governmental budgeting to problems that need to be focused on while not mentioning mechanisms of decision is similar to assuming that a bunch of well educated people can make better decisions than masses affected by those decisions.
@ Jamal: Though your argument is wrong to start with, it would have gained more currency prior to 2011 🙂
@ Mohannad (Arabic) moh: Tribe and class are two opposing structures.
@ a7lam: “People need to mature first and develop a sense of democracy and acceptance of the other before we get there.” Who do you think you are to assess the people sanity?!?!?!
@Ahmad Al Sholi: you misunderstand the comment. my father was an important figure in the events of 70s and for this my family had to be exiled away from home for many years in Syria.
what I was saying is that, palestinians (underline that I’m married with one) although the majority of this country but yet always ignored, beside what their anger, when its time, may cost the kingdom…
Anyway it’s my fault, I didn’t explain myself clearly.
Palestinians never were and never will be a threat to the throne, and the throne knows that, and also knows that the brothers inc. are neutralized in Jordan and cannot be compared to the HO in Egypt, as they have their own local agendas to worry about.Furthermore, the throne also knows where the threat really comes from( historically speaking), the ashayer, and hence you see, the current actions and movements that the King is making these days including the appointment of Bakhit who has more sway in the desired direction
@antar: Ù…Ø§Ø°Ø§ Ø¹Ù† Ø§Ù„Ø§ÙŠØ© 29 Ù…Ù† Ø³ÙˆØ±Ø© Ø§Ù„ØªÙˆØ¨Ø©
I may have misunderstood you. I guess that I am noticing lately an escalation in fascist undertones (which brews under the surface given the sad state of affairs). The looming danger is the evolvement of these sentiments into demands/plans/manifestos/and programs instead of establishing progressive movements demanding democracy, equality, and social justice.
2 questions though, what is the NO transparency thing? and what does cost the kingdom mean?
yes there are problems in our Arab societies which are hindering polical reforms towards some kind of free democracy, but they can be solved if there’s a will ..
It is true that, for example Chrisitian Jordanians, currently have a very limited political role in Jordan (appart from the role of a few in economy, and in some political parties , and pls forget the quotas and image-issues) – this is not just because they’re a minority, it’s due to ignorance and the use of cliches: they’re looked at as “Kuffar” who like to get drunk. It is a fact that they rarely get senior positions in governmental institutions even if highly qualified and experienced; they prefer to stay quite about this …and many end up working in Christians – dominated companies. This indicates a problem – but it can change if recognised as one , what Jordan needs is admitting there are problems , equal rights for ALL and education & awareness (these do not come only from the internet!), and this is not contradicting any of the two religions or any other progressive thinking.
I am definitely not an expert , but I suggest you read:
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@ Markus lol historically speaking?! really?! seams like your history is having a bad case of dementia.
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@ Mohanned Quote: “a billion dollars to upgrade our f-16 fleet when the budget is in shambles tells you something about boys and their toys, by toys i mean both the planes and our country.” end quote.
In a country surrounded by wars, israel, not so friendly regimes and where at least third of its citizens not only hate it but moreover consider it as an enemy, no amount of money going to the military can be enough, not even the whole budget.
@Jordanian, why are you attacking me personally sir? Are you mad at me for stating my conviction? or do you really believe that I have dementia?
Anyways, whats is this stuff you are talking about? what does this document, if in fact it is so, what does it mean? Why do many Jordanians fall into this trap of using Zionist propaganda ( Not saying that you are Zionists) why do they fall in the trap of using such propaganda to justify themselves? Have you ever talked ot a Palestinian who wants Joran to be his homeland?
Come on dude, do you want me to quote Ahmed Oweidi Al-Abbadi for you and use that as a historical basis for my argument about the Ashayer?
This document is supposedly around for years but we never heard such claims until recently. My reasoning is that some Jordanians grew sick of arguments such as this:
“Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. by Avi Shlaim” You quoted american cia im upping the ante im quoting an Israeli….
All of a sudden there are stories about how fatah had such an evil agenda from the very start, hey dont get me wrong, as a Jordanian I would not trust fatah for what happened in 1970 (even though it was not really fatah) but dont come to me with such arguments that cant stand if it wasnt for one supposed “watheeqa”.
What I was talking about is undisputed history my friend. When I said historically i meant pre 1970s pre 60 and pre 40s even, go back,….way back….and start reading history from that point, and then you will know what I mean, and please stop circulating this pepperoni for God’s Sake!
No freakin pali wants Jordan as his homeland so dont worry about it man, what you need to worry about are the people who want to force the palestinains into Jordan….I hope you know who your real enemy is, it would serve you and your country better to prepare for them.
Please spare the trouble and time of editing comments and simply put, keep it clean.
Don’t insult each other. Stick to the issue at hand if you’re interested in genuine debate. If you’re not. Then this isn’t the best place for you.
i hope my comments are not viewed as insults, cuz this is not my intention.