How Jordanian Parliament Lost Its Mind And Why Its Time To Dissolve It

The state of Jordanian parliament today reminds me of the Dead Sea. It’s the lowest point on Earth, it’s a body of water where nothing can survive, and it continues to recede every year causing an increasingly dire situation. The events in parliament that have transpired in the past few days and weeks have come to demonstrate the degree to which our parliament has hit rock bottom.

In the past month alone, some of the highlights included the violent prone MP Yaya Saud, known for his repulsively belligerent ways that have included leading and directing mobs to attack protesters and critics of the state over the past year and a half – who recently attempted to attack a fellow member of parliament, Bassam Hadaddin. Speaker of the House Dughmi some how felt it was logical to use his podium as a platform to criticize Hadaddin who had published a column a day earlier criticizing the speaker’s totalitarian attitude. According to the reports, Hadaddin was not allowed to defend his position with Dughmi telling him to basically sit down and shut up, while the latter essentially accused the man of being bitter for not receiving a requested financial perk. This caused Hadaddin to walk out along with other MPs. Eventually, Haddadin and Dughmi met behind closed doors, resolved their differences, and the microphone was turned over to the latter to make a statement, when Yahya Saud popped up and ripped out the microphone, hurling insults and attempting to attack Haddadin. It was a scene out of a WWE tournament. MP Jamil Nimri called the event an “indescribable…disaster”. I would call it, disgusting.

Perhaps my favorite part of that video is the last few seconds where someone tells the media “Don’t tape this”, and someone else says “tape it!”. It’s pretty demonstrative of the relationship between the media and the parliament. Rewind only a few days prior, MPs took turn chastising the media for being critical of their demands for lifetime diplomatic passports. The Jordan Press Association called their remarks “offensive”, and dubbed the lower house as being “politically bankrupt”. One would think MPs would have a greater respect for the media given that without their coverage they would be rendered more obsolete than they already are, to say nothing of their love for the cameras.

But the cherry on top has surely been this absurd battle between the Senate and the Lower House regarding the civil retirement law, with the latter body wanting an amendment that would guarantee them lifetime pensions. The Senate rejected the amendments, and the Lower House rejected their rejection, sending the law back and forth in a political ping pong session. In case any one has forgotten, these are MPs that were “elected” in Novemeber 2010, which makes them barely a year and a half old. And in case anyone has forgotten, the country is not only faced with unprecedented political turmoil in the region and at home, but it’s also in economic dire straits. While the people are demanding holding officials responsible for financial corruption, as well as solutions to the level of poverty and unemployment, this legislative body is asking that they receive lifetime salaries no matter how long they’ve served, and on the tax payer’s dime.

Yesterday, as everyone knows by now, the Lower House “won” the battles, and I’m using air quotes here because the Senate also ended up voting in its favor during the joint session. MPs (and I believe Senators too) make about 3,000JDs a month, so for 180 members of parliament (both houses) that takes us to 6.48 million dinars a year. To say nothing of the next parliament. To say nothing of the rest of their lives.

With the exception of a few members, Parliament has officially lost its mind and, in my opinion, I think it’s time to seriously consider its dissolution. We have all gone along with the political theater that is this parliament, but right now this farce is not only set to cost us millions, but is too incompetent to tackle the reform issues in its hand. For it to continue is not only disgraceful, and not only destructive, it erodes what little confidence the Jordanian street has in the state’s genuineness regarding reform.

There are, of course, legal repercussions to such an action considering that the constitution has been amended and requires elections to be held within four months. The tight spot the country is currently in revolves around this reality as well as the fact that a new elections law is being submitted by the government for approval by the parliament. Suffice to say, given the state of our parliament, I no longer trust them to properly discuss their own lunch order, let alone amendments to our constitution, and an election law that will likely be the biggest defining factor for the reform process in the Kingdom. This issues is much too important and much too dangerous to put in the hands of parliament, who I’m sure would not be able to secure a vote of confidence from the people today.

The new elections law requires national consensus, and this cannot be facilitated by a politically (and now morally) bankrupt parliament. It requires a national discussion and a process whereby different parties have the opportunity to present alternatives, offer input, and then put it up for a national referendum, allowing the people to directly vote. The alternative is having this currently defunct parliament decide on behalf of the people of whom they are non-representative, which will likely result in another absurd election process, protests, rinse and repeat.

It is of utmost importance that the state get the elections process right. From the legislative process, to the monitoring of the elections, to the conduct of the elections themselves. It must be a process that is inclusive of the Jordanian population, which has a right to have a firsthand say in the country’s political destiny. And thus, it is a process that must exclude this parliament, given its nauseating state.

Thought Is Free...

25 Comments

  1. If Stephen Colbert were Jordanian he’d have a field day here.

    On a more serious note, to hell with the people; they are the ones who elected these bozos in the first place. You reap what you sow.

  2. Absolutely nothing in this article surprises me. Laughed my ass of at the parliament fight scene. Who the hell do these people think they are and what on earth do they think they’re doing, and for heavens sake can Jordanian politicians start acting their age and see the seriousness and repercussions of each and every word they utter and action they play.

    RIP Jordanian parliament 2012 – onto the next one – the King also needs a nudge to see what sort of scum are tasked with essentially running the country.

    If these are the type of representatives that would be borne out of a potential full democracy – what sort of country will Jordan turn in to?

  3. @Husam: the parliament is sown not by the people but by the state. the people are merely the reapers/gatherers, not the sowers.

  4. Jordan parliament exists only as showcase for the Eurozone and North America to justify getting financial aid, not for the people of Jordan. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a dreamer

  5. It is illogical to expect bodies of government to change the unjust laws through which they were elected or guaranteed perks. Dissolution or not, new parliament or not, the people are screwed. Though personally, I believe the king is waiting for the peak of the people’s anger (with raising the electric bills and fuels), before dissolving the parliament. Then it’s the government. And on and on it goes.

  6. I am not too familiar with Jordanian politics. If the King can just dissolve parliament then it seems like the real power rests with him. When was the last time the king dissolved parliament? Is this a real threat to the power structure, or are they a bunch of moronic tools like the ones I watch back here in the US?

  7. Aren’t they ashamed at all? One wonders for how long this and other repulsive acts can go on and on… Seriously, something is deeply wrong in a society where corruption and sick, irresponsible behaviour exhibited by people across the board (form corrupt parliamentarians and officials, to ruthless drivers, to deceitful ‘service providers’…), just proliferates unchecked. Lately it feels like we are moving towards a state of total chaos and I wonder for how long it will go on before we understand that we really need to change course towards building a really responsible, democratic and modern society?

  8. Loved the commentary, especially the Dead Sea metaphor. But what about the “acquittal” granted by parliament re corruption on the low-income housing project? No Comment?

  9. Dissolving parliament feeds into the perpetual nightmare we’re caught in. MPs also get off easy and will have had a free ride. The king ought to throw the pension law in the trash, and then give them a priority list to get cracking on. Meanwhile, everyone else ought to try answering the question: why do we need a parliament?

  10. Not surprising at all. What all those vulgar and illegal acts by the MPs are highlighting is a one straight forward point “The King silence has a lot to do with whatever is happening currently in Jordan”, adding to that whatever the MPs are promoting starting with corruption cases dismissal is pointing not only one finger but ten fingers to the king.
    A king role if “negative”, loads of exclamation marks should meet such.

  11. Naseem: the point is that you cannot exclude the parliament from the process of reform, whether we like it or not! The constitutional amendments that were enacted last August have made it impossible to change the Elections Law unless the parliament votes to approve any new laws, in other words, the government will not be able to enact a new Elections Law without parliament because it is no longer able to enact temporary laws (unless a state of emergency is declared!!) and it seems that we managed to put the cart before the horse once again by amending the constitution in a mad rush prior to effecting all the peripheral laws that are necessary.

    If the king/government were to dissolve this parliament and hold new elections under the current Election Law, there is a huge possibility that we will end up with the same quality of parliament as this because (i) the current elections law is designed to produce services MPs due to very small electoral districts etc… (ii) the current elections law provides for the mysterious virtual districts system which makes it very easy for the ‘security forces’ to manipulate the results; and (iii) most organised political parties and ‘movements’ would likely boycott any elections held under the current law meaning its legitimacy would suffer!

    The fact is that everyone can plainly see how despised this parliament has become and I am sure the king/government would like nothing more than to do away with them, but this carries legal and constitutional repercussions so it is not as simple an issue as you make it seem!

  12. It is either the parliament has lost its mind or there is a good cop bad cop game being played.
    Even if we assume that our parliament is not corrupted and is working for the good well of the nation (which is not true), logically, they shouldn’t have the right to make conflict of interest decisions.

  13. For some reason , Naseem always blame the parliament for the state of affaires we are into and on the other hand we all know that the absolute king is calling the shot and he is the sole reason behind our political retardation. I think we must call and point out the obvious of our sad state of affaires , with the resignation of the prime minister it should be clear to all of us who is behind the real problems in our country.

  14. You are telling us that the Parliament should not be part of the reform process and thus should be dissolved (and that’s 100% right). But you’re also telling us there are legal and constitutional obstacles. Concretely, what is the solution? I mean, for you Nas, what is the best scenario out of this trouble (if there is one)?

  15. I understand that this is a disgrace. As a Jordanian, I am ashamed of all of this. Especially, that the people shown in the video are the ones representing my rights and myself. On the other hand, we should focus more on the positive things that are being done. Such as the renters and land owners law that was fixed etc.. yes there are flaws in the system, significant ones too. But i believe it is better to focus on the good reform that is taking place and hopefully we will ascend into a decent economy. These stuff take time, and cannot happen over night. The power is with the people and what they think, otherwise the reforms would not take place. But individually, power is where the public thinks it is, and as long as they think power is not permanent.

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