Egypt And The View From Jordan: A Spark For The Kingdom’s Youth

I admit, it has become increasingly difficult to read Jordan these days. Even when you live here the mood of the street shifts subtly that it is difficult to grasp on to it. The excitement over the revolution in Egypt has quieted down, but far from dead. Very far. There is no doubt that Egypt is proving what every Arab in the Middle East knows: it is the country at the center of it all. And what happens in Egypt, usually doesn’t stay in Egypt.

This is not to say there should be any expectation of an Egyptian exported revolution to the Kingdom, however, suffice to say, it is a country of massive impact. From the Amman stock market that has reported losses of over $850 million (part of a larger $50 billion region-wide) to the Egypt-Jordan natural gas pipeline being set ablaze, an event which is said to be costing the Kingdom roughly $4 million a day. Electricity in some parts of Amman are already seeing the toll of this event as lights begin to flicker here and there.

And this is just a sample, to say nothing of it being just the beginning.

The impact of these events can largely be divided in to long-run and short-run time frames.

In the long-run, it goes without saying that for 20-something year olds in Jordan, who help make up the bulk of the overall population, they are watching events in Egypt with some amazement, and I include myself in that group. It matters not the demographics or the socioeconomic background; if you live here, you’re likely transfixed to Tahrir square as if it were a stuntman about to jump the Nile on his motorbike. But just like any dangerous TV stunt, there is always the lingering disclaimer of: don’t try this at home kids. And this is perhaps the sentiment here. These events are happening in Egypt – not Jordan. The context here is very different and people recognize that. However, the impact of the Egyptian revolution on the psyche of Jordan’s young population will be of long-term significance in the Kingdom, and one can only hope that the state begins to realize it is now faced with a new regional reality that did not exist a month ago: precedent. In fact, two of them.

However, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the protests that took place in Jordan in the past few weeks, most of which have died down now, were not lead by the youth but rather by much older segments. Even in the few protests where I actually saw young people, typically in Amman, they were not playing the starring role we’re seeing youth play out in Egypt or Tunisia. Supporting roles at best, and often times completely absent in towns like Karak or Irbid. While they are part of the educated but unemployed group, it is a whole other generation that is out there making demands. This older crowd finds its origins in various entities, parties, interest groups and unions, most of which the depoliticized youth population generally do not belong to or care to associate with. I’d argue that had the youth genuinely partaken in these recent protests, we would have seen them last a lot longer, and triple in numbers. And so naturally I wonder, with all this in mind: if Tunisia wasn’t enough to do it, will Egypt be the spark for the youth in this country?

Much of the older generation that took to the streets in places like Karak or Ma’an – areas of traditional key support to the Monarchy and are what likely triggered recent changes in government – are a constituency of people who rely on a flawed system. They want to see that system maintained. It is one they’ve long benefited from and their demands for political change is not synonymous with political reform. They are looking for greater tribal representation that can assure their beneficiary system remains in tact. They need to be provided with alternatives. At the end of the day it’s not about the freedom of speech for them – it’s about the number of bills in their wallets. The only time freedom of speech seems to be demanded by this group is when they want it to complain about how little money they have, and how few alternatives are available.

And that seems to be the key word when it comes to answering the question of “what comes next?”. Alternatives.

The opposition parties have none. Whether it is the Islamists or others – their demands are designed largely to solidify their base, which has been fractured in recent years under shaky party leadership and political exile. And they are no different from other political parties who do not seem to have an actual set agenda of policies that need to be in place in order to bring about change. If free elections were to happen tomorrow and the ruling party were to govern, we would be more lost than we are now. And I get the sense that more or less, most Jordanians are aware of this. While the status quo is far from cherished, its alternative is recognized not being any better.

Then there’s the short-run.

The state is in crisis-management mode. Putting out fires left, right and far right. And in the midst of this politicking frenzy, there is a struggle to remain one step ahead of the game and anticipate. For the next few weeks, the government will be focused on catering to disgruntled groups – from teachers and veterans to political parties and unions. Many promises will be made; some demands will be met. Appeasement is a natural part of crisis management in this country.

The main concern however is whether the urgent will crowd out the important. Whether in the midst of managing the crises the state forgets what caused it in the first place. If protests achieved one thing these past few weeks is that they struggled to make a connection between the need for good governance as manifested in political reforms, and good economics.

It goes without saying that the state needs to start introducing genuine reforms and better governance. The Bakhit government has already been very quick to act, and send signals of what’s to come. From meeting with the Islamists and even offering them cabinet positions in his government, which they unfortunately turned down, to promising an amended election law, and lifting restrictions on freedom of assembly. One only hope that these moves are both genuine and on the path towards realization. I can remember when Bakhit was last appointed soon after the Amman bombings of 2005 and there were initial promises of a “Freedom Square” akin to London’s Hyde Park and speaker’s corner. We never saw that come to be.

The country’s population cannot stand any more window-dressing of freedoms and reforms that have been promised it for over a decade now. There’s no more room for window-dressing – that card cannot be played anymore. It’s moot. The state needs to pay very careful attention to the new realities unfolding on the Arab street. The same old puppet show of the past will not play well with a generation that is older, wiser and increasingly frustrated with a lack of opportunities and a lack of alternatives. While the state does not yet have a youth problem in the short-run, it needs to think long-run – especially in this new regional context. There is a new generation emerging with a different set of expectations and like the 20-somethings on the streets of Cairo, this generation will not be settling for anything less.


  • “Queen Rania, of Palestinian origin, is viewed as glamorous, sophisticated, and widely admired abroad. She has come in for particular criticism, accused of controlling court appointments and funneling business to her family. But mostly she is said to be insensitive to her subjects.

    Egypt Officials Seek to Nudge Mubarak Out (February 5, 2011)
    ‘Day of Rage’ for Syrians Fails to Draw Protesters (February 5, 2011)
    Munich Conference Focuses on Middle East (February 5, 2011)
    Discontented Within Egypt Face Power of Old Elites (February 5, 2011)
    Palestinian Premier Sees ‘Positive Change’ in Unrest (February 5, 2011)
    Crisis in Egypt Tests U.S. Ties With Israel (February 5, 2011)
    Last summer the queen turned 40 and threw herself a party in the hauntingly beautiful area of southern Jordan known as Wadi Rum. She invited 600 people, paying the way for many from abroad. The pink granite hills of Wadi Rum were electrically lighted with the number 40 — in a poor area where some people live without electricity. Water, a precious commodity there, was used by the truckload.

    “It looked to many people like the party that the shah of Iran threw at Persepolis for the country’s birthday,” said Randa Habib, a writer and analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman. The king, who just turned 49, has absolute power here, and advocates of reform increasingly say they want him to become a constitutional monarch, a symbol of the state but not in charge of it. The prime minister would be elected, not appointed. While it is hard to gauge how widespread this view is, it is heard from both Palestinians and East Bankers.


  • We are living a big lie,” one sheik whispered. “This king is hopeless,” said another. “The security police called us up and told us not to meet with you,” said a third. “But we have tongues and we will speak.”…Queen Rania, of Palestinian origin, is viewed as glamorous, sophisticated, and widely admired abroad. She has come in for particular criticism, accused of controlling court appointments and funneling business to her family. But mostly she is said to be insensitive to her subjects. Last summer the queen turned 40 and threw herself a party in the hauntingly beautiful area of southern Jordan known as Wadi Rum. She invited 600 people, paying the way for many from abroad. The pink granite hills of Wadi Rum were electrically lighted with the number 40 — in a poor area where some people live without electricity. Water, a precious commodity there, was used by the truckload. It looked to many people like the party that the shah of Iran threw at Persepolis for the country’s birthday,” said Randa Habib, a writer and analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman. The king, who just turned 49, has absolute power here, and advocates of reform increasingly say they want him to become a constitutional monarch, a symbol of the state but not in charge of it. The prime minister would be elected, not appointed. While it is hard to gauge how widespread this view is, it is heard from both Palestinians and East Bankers.” Link

  • This revolution will spread all over the middle east , it is only a matter of time , next is Yemen and the And Saudi Arabia , once those two corrupt regime is out of the way Jordan will be next . I guarantee it . Don’t worry be happy!

  • “The solution is kicking the Palestinians out of Jordan and relocating them in Europe, Canada or even Australia… they have a lot of space and resources and can handle them much better than Jordan and that way they will not be competing with true Jordanians over their resources ”
    I heard that comment from someone earlier on this month and at this point my fingers are crossed for that scenario …

  • @The Free Jordanian: it’s interesting that you would quote a hopeless New York Times article that bases its entire perceptions on a dinner the writer had with two sheikhs. and it’s even more interesting that you think anything would happen here. i think even suggesting that shows that you’ve been away too long from the country and have perhaps lost touch with the realities that are alive and well here.

    p.s. when linking something please just use the anchor on a single word or sentence, not an entire paragraph or comment. there’s way too much blue and my spam plugin may mistake it for spam.

  • Am I right in thinking that Jordan is not in such a bad condition as Egypt?

    How do literacy rates and GDP per person compare? (Including the Palestinians-in-Jordan.)

    Is police brutality as bad in Jordan as in Egypt?

    From outside, it looks as though Jordan’s biggest problem is water. A revolution will not solve that overnight.

  • @Don Cox: things are far from perfect in Jordan but it is very difficult to compare it to Egypt where poverty levels and illiteracy is perhaps unparalleled in the arab world.

    and in reference to your brackets – poverty does not differentiate based on origin.

  • @Nas
    I wouldn’t go anywhere near unparalleled, actually Egypt along several others have been punting par for the course on a lot of those issues but as “Arabs” we tend to forget those “other Arabs” that have been hitting one boggy after the other. Just a few that come to mind that are worst off that Egypt… Mauritania, Somalia, Yemen, Western Sahara, Djibouti, Sudan and Comoros.
    And as for poverty does not differentiate based on origin I beg to differ. A universal rule is that poverty is more pronounced in rural than urban areas, and this also applies to Jordan as well… and I’ll just let you follow that chain of thought on your own.

  • @bambam: i agree with you with regards to poverty in the arab world in general, but i’ll refine my statement to referring specifically to the levant region of egypt, jordan, palestine, syria, iraq and lebanon.

    as for origins. i understand your point of view but i’m not sure i completely agree with it. which is not to say i compeletly disagree with it. yes, in jordan the rural are often worse off than those in urban centers, and the perception is that the urban centers are often occupied by jordanians of palestinian origin. however, first of all, im not sure how valid that perception is any more. it is fairly difficult for me to compare someone living in jabal al nathif in east amman to someone living in the outskirts of Karak or Ma’an city or Ajloun. they are all in the same poverty boat in my eyes and both stand in sharp contrast to west amman which is likely the only real affluent piece of geography in the entire country.

    in other words, both the urban and rural seem to be suffering on the same front. perhaps one is more than the other but there’s little difference between someone who makes 100jds and another who makes 70jds – neither are making 2,000jds

  • ان الحاله الاردنيه لاتختلف كثيرا عن الحال في كل من تونس ومصر وحتى باقي الدول العربيه فانه يجمعها عده امور
    1- التفرد في السلطه
    2- زواح المال مع السلطه
    3- الزعيم الذي لابديل عنه ( وقتاعه الشعوب بهذا المبداء*
    4- انتسار الفساد والمحسوبيه
    فان الاوضاع متشابه اذا لم تكن منطابقه في كل البلدان العربيه الاردن اكثر البلدان العربيه شباب فان مشيت في اول مظاهره دعت اليها القوه الوطنيه الاردنيه من امام جامع الحسين الملفت بها انها من الشباب ونسيه كبيره منهم من اصحاب الشعر الطويل وكانوا ينظمون المسيره فان وقود هذه الامه هو الشباب وان الاحزاب التقلديه من اليسار واليمين في الاردن لان تكون في الاردن افصل حال من مصر وتونس

    واذا ارده الاردن ان يخرج من المازق عليه اولا حل مجلس النواب والاعيان (وانا لااعرف ماذا يقدموا الاعيان للبلد -) والبدء مياشره بمحاسيه الفاسدين
    فالدوله للاسف تطفح بالفساده
    والغاء مبداء التعامل مع الاردني على اسس جغرافي اي منطق يقبل التحدث عن شخص عاش وولد في الادن منذ اكثر من خمسون عام ثم ياتي شخص فاسد او متخلف الم بقدم للاردن شي يقول هذا غير اردني
    وان الاشخاص الفاسدين هم الذين يجب القول عنهم انهم غير اردنين

  • Yes Nassem , I don’t live there but I visit every yaer and I don’t spend time in Dair khabar or Abdoon but in cities that have real people like Zarka, Maan, Al Salt, and Karak, I alway take my time talking to people, and the situation is getting worst by the minute and I was told by the so called “East bankers” that problems have gone from bad to worst under the new king , I have heard that on enormous occasion, but people are afraid to say what is on their mind because of the government thugs and informants ..

  • مهند LAW

    I totally agree with your analysis . Good insight. What our county needs, are pure loyal citizens who are proactive, from this nuanced tapestry that is our society of all origins.

  • @ مهند LAW: المنطق الذي يقبل التحدث عن الشخص الذي عاش اكثر من خمسين عام انه ليس اردني المنطق هو ان هذا الشخص نفسه لا يعرف نفسه انه اردني بل يحتقر الهوية الاردنية والاردنيين

  • من حق الاردنيين المحافظة على هويتهم لانها تحفظ حقهم بالحياة الكريمة مش مشكلة الاردنيين انه الفلسطينيين مع كل حرب بهربوا من ارضهم

  • There seems to be agreement here that the Palestinians in Jordan are not poorer than the “native” Jordanians. If so, this is good.

    In Lebanon, the Palestinians do seem to be much worse off than others, and are banned from most jobs and the state health service.

    A quick check on Wikipedia suggests that Jordan has a substantially higher literacy rate than Egypt. I don’t think you can have a fully working democracy unless at least 90% can read and write.
    Basic education is one of the main tasks of a government.

    As for unemployment, this is mainly the result of rapid population growth.

  • جمال- اتفق معك من حيث انه ان من يعيش في الاردن اكثر من 50 عام لايعترف انه اردني ولكن اليس من المنطق ان من يعيش في الاردن ويكتسب الجنسيه ويقوم بكل وجباته كاردني يلتزم بكل ويطبق عليه القانون كاردني ثم ياتي يوما بموظف ينزع عنه الجنسيه دون اي مبرر الا لان ذلك الموظف يمارسه مزاجيته دون اي ضوايط اوحتى اي معرفه اليس هذا ظلم وتعسف ان من يثير ذلك هم اشخاص مصابون بالعته هل الاردني من اصل فلسطيني نقول له يجب ان تلغي تاريخك واصولك حتى تكون اردني الاردني هو من ينتمي الاردن بشكل فعلي لا قولا وكثير من العائلات الاردني التى اصولها ليس اردني وهي عربيه وغير عربيه وبل على العكس تنكر عروبتها يشكل علني واصبح لهم قنوات فضائيه تتحدث بالغتهم رغم انهم في ياخذون اكثر من حقوقهم هؤلاء اردنيون لديك ولاتنكر عليهم شي وحرام هم اقليه ومنهم من يحمل الجنسيه الام والجنسه الاردنيه يحتقرون العربي
    قد لانتفق لانه كل منا لدينا ثقافه تعشش في افكارنا هو مبداء الغاء الاخر

    الاردني مشكلنه مع الفاسدين من شتى الاصول والمنابت
    وخيرا اقول انه لا يبقى في الوادي الاحجارته

  • لا يمكن مقارنة اقليات لاتشكل شي من عدد السكان الكلي بفئة تمثل نسبة هائلة من السكان وهنا يظهر اهمية سحب الجنسيات من نسبة من الفلسطينيين لانه سيسهل دمج الباقي عندما تقل نسبتهم في المجتمع والذين تسحب جنسياتهم لن يتم رميهم بالبحر بل امامهم الدولة الفلسطينية القادمة وبالمناسبة الاردن يتفاوض الان على اعادة حوالي مليون فلسطيني للدولة الفلسطينية القادمة وهذا باعتقادي حل لمشاكل الجميع حيث سيسهل دمج ما يتبقى من الفلسطينيين في الاردن

  • “If free elections were to happen tomorrow and the ruling party were to govern, we would be more lost than we are now. And I get the sense that more or less, most Jordanians are aware of this. While the status quo is far from cherished, its alternative is recognized not being any better”

    this is REALLY terrible to say Nas … why hold elections in the first place ?? its like saying no-body is fit to lead a governmentg in this country, this eccos the opinion of the same fat minority who screwed up big time so far and keep ruling over and over.

    MAPPING STRATEGIES CAN BE AGREED ON. What we really need are pragmatic hard working people who are commited to deliver based on understanding their authorities, resources and the nature of the public institutions. who can translate the plans into propjects and actions with tangible feedback on achieved milestones.

    ex: what difference does it make for mohammed who works in the ministry of interior when a minister get changed? basically nothing. how much does the government influence its employees?? is it pushing for more?? the goverment should not be worried about controlling the people as much as it needs to control its performance and employees.

    I would break it down the KPIs of the governmental institutions, raise the bar on deliverables and get them busy. it can be controlled successfully.

  • Nas:

    Glad to see you have finally accepted the fact that reform measures the past ten years are nothing but unfulfilled promises and window dressing. This is a far cry from your typical analysis to the effect of reform being “complicated” and involving steps forward in certain areas while backwards in other areas. Reform in Jordan has never been about democratization. It has been about managing pressures while maintaining the status quo both economically and politically.

    It is sad that you find it acceptable to designate yourself as one of the people who can decided when real democratic reforms should be put in place. This is completely absurd when you do it in your above statement about how a ruling party would not offer anything seriously different, when you claim that people’s protests are more about money than they are about rights, or when others do it by reference to whatever other reason they want to point to of why Jordanians are allegedly not ready or even wanting of democracy. People work the system they have and given the current system it makes sense to protest for money for some constituencies given that they are loyal to regime and real reforms have proven to be a red line. So change the system so that people can change how they benefit from the system. I’m not a fan of the IAF or most of the other parties. But it is ludicrous to suggest that simply because potential ruling parties are not offering anything meaningful then we might as well as not have real democratic reform. Part of the problem is that there is no incentive to be creative and to offer real alternatives because there is no competition. As it is now, whether one party rises or falls has nothing to do with their platform and policies but with dynamics between the regime and different parties in a non-democratic system. While the status-quo as well as existing alternatives (one of the current parties winning elections that matter) might not offer much hope in the immediate present, at least the alternative would be subject to accountability and change should they fail to deliver anything meaningful. At least existing parties would be able to show that they have little to offer and thus inspire alternative formations and movements. But in the current situation, not only is the status quo maintained, but the alternatives you and all of us hope for simply won’t have the space to develop.

    Finally, can we stop with your incessant attacks on the Free Jordanian. I don’t find his comments particularly useful, but it would show more intelligence and sincerity on your part if you actually engaged his arguments and tried to prove him wrong rather than simply labeling him a Marxist or pointing out that he does not live in Jordan. As if either of those two things necessarily mean that he is wrong. Again, I don’t care much for what he has to say other than its a different perspective than most people on this blog have. But nevertheless, I would expect you to provide something more than your ad hominom dismissive responses.

  • Bambam, when you all, Jordanians of Jordanian origin and Jordanians of Palestinian origin, end up with the schizophrenic vision you have from your own country and realize that all those who grew up, live and work in Jordan should claim for their rights in Jordan (independently of the fair claims over Palestine) you will start to be able to think about solutions and progress for this small and dry piece of land. A Head of State who is seen as the armed representative of a minority will never be able to take his people very far. You should start thinking about rulers who really represent the will of all or most of their people. And in order to get that, democracy may be very useful. If you think that Palestinians are the problem, and not part of the solution, and if Palestinias continue having the only aspiration of going back to the land of their grandmothers, you have a big problem. You will only be able to push this country forward if you stop, look arround and start to think what could you do to develop this country whith the contribution of the people who are already here (and who I am sure that could do things very well if they really wanted to).

  • @Tala: I agree with everything you said. but in reference to the statement you said was a “really terrible” thing for me to say, we have yet to see any significant alternatives to the status quo in the form of genuine political leadership. show it to me and i will change my mind.


    @Firas: thank you for your comment.

    I’d like to first start off by saying I do not see the contradiction with regards to suggesting that reforms have largely gone unfulfilled (as i am suggesting now) and that the reform process is complicated (as you claim i have typically suggested before). both those things are true and both those statements are valid. they have been unfulfilled and the process is undoubtedly a complicated one.

    Second, I have not designated myself as someone who “decides” when real democratic reforms should take place. To suggest so is to present a statement that is sadly nothing short of a fallacy. Show me a political party in the country that has the ability to assume leadership of this country tomorrow. No, wait. Show me a political party in this country with a tangible agenda for reform – not slogans, but an actual scholarship of public policy. Present me with the alternative and I’ll gladly change my mind about that.

    Furthermore, it is utterly ludicrous to claim that I believe that in the absence of political maturity that this therefore means we are not “ready” for a democracy. What I suggest here and elsewhere is that the system you are referring to needs to be reformed first. There needs to be political party development and maturity of a new status quo before the democracy you want to see emerges in the right fashion. To believe that everything is fine and dandy and a governing political party could assume leadership of this country tomorrow is to be putting all your eggs in a basket with a hole in it. My belief is that the basket needs to be mended first.

    As for systems of accountability. I agree with that. The alternative (we can hope) would be subject to those mechanisms that the current status quo does not directly assume (unless people’s discontent is on the rise and a govt change is forced). However, what good is such a system if there is no political maturity. Are to have an annual election for a decade until we get a party that knows what it’s doing? Political maturation is a serious matter that defines the system of governance in any country. When we still have haphazard parties that are formed as coalitions for parliamentary elections then we have a problem. When we have parties that after decades in operation have yet to present tangible policy initiatives, then we have a problem. Throwing all these people in the ring without reforming the system or helping them to genuinely develop and mature is like mixing 20 ingredients in a pot and simply hoping what comes out will taste good. that’s not good enough for me. I expect more of a party system in my country. in fact – i demand it.

    Lastly, with regards to free jordanian, i am not attacking him and i see nothing in my comment that is considered as a personal attack. i do believe that his perspective with regards to a potential revolution happening in jordan is wrong and largely due to being an outsider as many expats seem to share that opinion as opposed to those that reside here. and im entitled to hold that opinion i believe.


    @Puski @bambam @jamal @مهند law – are we seriously going to drag the jordanian-palestinian loyalty issue in to this?

    it’s 2011. please move forward…please move on.

  • Nas, thanks for the thought out response.

    My point about your previous descriptions of reform is not that you can’t believe that reform is complicated AND that reform thus far has been window dressing. I am more interested in combining those two positions and see little value other than justifying the status quo in not combining them. What I mean to say is that yes reform is complicated in general terms. But the reason it has been so complicated in Jordan, or the details of its complications in Jordan, are more to do with the fact that it is really about window dressing rather than fulfilling promises. Its the status quo securing itself . . . its the very people benefiting from the existing system that are promising to reform it. I’m not here to review your positions, but I am curious to see how you describe, justify, or analyze the reform process from this point on given your acknowledgment that it has been window dressing and unfulfilled promises. And to be honest, I think this if the first time that I have read you openly and unequivocally state that it has been a series of broken promises and window dressing. And to be honest, it was refreshing to see that from you.

    As for demanding more of a party system, I think you are correct in the flaws you point out. You are also correct in demanding more of a system. But those demands are first to be directed somewhere other than the actual parties. I think history is not on your side. The process of political party development, or even of learning how to engage a system of representation and accountability can’t be done absent that actual system. How is it that political parties are going to develop the principles, strategies, and capacities needed for an effective parliamentary system absent that actual system? Currently, we have a system in which parties do not need to develop those skills and resources because that is not what gets them their following or popularity or access to centers of power. We have an election law, a government selection principle, and a policy creation and implementation process that completely by-pass parliament as a representative and accountable system.

    History and other social sciences point to how people and groups adapt to existing systems and will seek ways of doing things that maximize those benefits according to the existing rules. Look at Tahrir Square in Cairo: a population that was repeatedly maligned for its alleged lack of civic responsibility has stepped up to the plate creating ways of acting and relating that most people thought was impossible. How do you expect people and groups in Jordan to start playing by different rules – rules that when played by would be completely divorced from the existing means of playing the system. In other words, the systems sets the rules and people play by them. You want them to act differently, change the system and give them an incentive to act differently and a means of being punished (not getting votes) if they don’t. Also, right now we have a system that has specific interests in seeing certain parties prosper and others falter right now. If I were to start a political party along the lines you are rightly demanding, how long will I last without getting harassed or imprisoned by any combination of government groups. You want me to go out an offer a real alternative in this context? You want me to go out and say the problem is X and the solution is Y as I see fit and as I see would really address issues? How do you expect me to offer my platform, one that would challenge what is currently going on not through slogans but through a platform that calls a spade a spade. This fact of limits on speech, on association, on protection by those that might be in government but are not directly implicated by my potential platform automatically inhibits the development of what you are demanding.

    Ultimately, I can’t believe that some of us entertain arguments about the population not being ready for democracy. Assessments of when people are ready for democracy can’t become an actual reason to prevent democratic change. And the scary thing is that that is exactly what is going on. In making claims about the country not being ready for democracy (for whatever reason: chaos, Islamist take over, no real platform, etc.) people become part of the problem . . . they justify things being window dressing and promises going unfulfilled. They become the justification for keeping things undemocratic. That is the fundamental issue here. Who are you, me, or anyone else to be part of whatever group to determine “now is the time for democracy.” We are either for democracy and the rights it entails, or we are for the status quo. It only does a select few any good to pick and chose which rights we deserve now and which rights we need to earn. As the last ten years have shown, this selective democracy promotion has effectively meant that those of us benefiting from the system are seeing things improve whereas those that are seeing things getting worse have limited room to hold anyone accountable.

    As for the Free Jordanian, you are entitled to whatever opinion you hold. I just would like to see you elaborate on why he is wrong by making an argument as opposed to simply referencing his “expat” status or his Marxist leanings. Because had that comment been made by someone who lives in Jordan, or someone who is not a Marxist, and there are those that live in Jordan that think the way he does, your response would be mute. And I have come expect more from you.

    Thanks for engaging.

  • @Nas you should know my views about the issue by now, either i thought it was an interesting opportunity to just stir the pot in this instance and finally someone fell in 😉 That said the comment wasn’t only made for sadistic pleasure, it carries in it the reason of why i think the situation is so different here.

  • Iam sure the debate on how to go forward and take this country to safe land will not end today or tomorrow ,however, it is my duty to tell the people of my country of the danger we are in , the government that we have and most likely most of Nassem’s reader heard it from me before and i will continue to convey this message till the day i dies , “our” government is not of our making , it was and still is, imposed on us from you guess it, the good old US empire, that has been and will be the hindrance of our independence .
    To engage in any debate , we not only need to be frank about it but sincere and honest , For me, this government does not mean a thing, because I was never given the chance and the opportunity to elect it and let alone chose it .
    Since the new king took over from his father, our country has become a farm for his family and an ATM machine if you will , accountability and transparency have become empty words for the local and international consumption,selling our public sector at garage sale prices has become coded words for “development” , “advancement” and “prosperity” . The shameful and the surrender treaty of Wadi Araba is called peace treaty, and by the way, did any of you saw the dividend of it ? , we heard that US gave Jordan 7 billion to pay for it’s external debit and can anybody tell me what happened to the 7 billion that we supposedly received ?

  • “If free elections were to happen tomorrow and the ruling party were to govern, we would be more lost than we are now. And I get the sense that more or less, most Jordanians are aware of this. While the status quo is far from cherished, its alternative is recognized not being any better”

    This may or may not be true.. we will never know until we get a true democratic regime in place, and if this happens and we get a less than expected people in leadership positions then we have no one to blame but ourselves, and the election after ,I am sure, we will elect better people…
    But the status quo is unsustainable, degrading and humiliating. For one man can not replace the whole population in the decision making process. We are where we are because of this.
    I read about the 40 birthday party and feel betrayed by the King and the Queen for this extravaganza that is paid for by our tax dinars and dinars given to Jordan as aid by foriegn countries.
    Jordan is much better off than egypt and many other arab countries.. BUT, does that mean that we should wait untill we are worse off to act and reclaim our future and our destiny?? I don’t think so..The time is now.
    As for Jordanian of Palestinian origin….They are Jordanian, and they have been for a long time and will continue to be for a long time to come. We are in the same boat and the boat is sinking and when it does we are all going to suffer the consiquences.
    Our common enemy is the absence of democracy and the presence of corruption. A constitutional democracy is the answer. The King is the figuer head of the state.
    It is time that we unite, Jordanians of ALL origins, to say enough is enough. The party is over.

  • @Firas:

    I have stated before that reform has been largely window-dressing, both on this blog and in print publications. As for justifying reform – I’m not sure what you mean by that, but suffice to say I am a believer in reform. Full stop. To defend and believe in reform is not to support the struggling reform “process”. They are two separate entities in my mind.

    Second, I agree with you that the system has not empowered political parties – and I have noted this before and put the blame for the lacking political party development in the country on the state and its maintaining of a status quo that doesn’t allow for it. However, this is not an excuse for political parties not to “have an idea”. If I am a political party and the system has disabled much my external activities, what excuse do I have when it comes to not having a policy agenda? As an example, the Islamists, after the 2007 elections, started meeting with various “experts” in policy and economics to try and develop something. They were bombarded with questions about the economy that they could not answer because they nothing about it other than “taxes should be lower” and “everyone should have a job”. Forget about the external environment for a moment (one that needs a massive paradigm shift) and think internally. Ideology has gotten in the way of policy – the former is useless to me as a citizen and the mark of a political party lies in its ability to offer healthy alternatives of the latter.

    Are we to believe that any political party in Jordan that says “you know what, unemployment is too high – here’s our policy, here’s what we think should be done about it”…do you believe this party would be imprisoned, harassed or banned? Will it challenge the status quo? Of course. Is that their job? Hell yes. Why get in to politics – especially opposition politics, if you’re not willing to challenge the status quo? Why spend all this effort on binary politics that consists largely of holding up a “no” sign, and then, when asked for the alternative, essentially say “i have no Godly idea how to do it.”

    I agree with you regarding any arguments of being made of people not being ready for democracy as a justification for its absence. I am not making any of those, and I am certainly not justifying the status quo.

    Are the people ready for a democracy in Jordan? Obviously not. This is a fact that requires only a 2 minute conversation with the average voter to conclude. However, this has much to do with the system that has dis-empowered the people and caused much of their disenfranchisement. Change the system, you can inspire change quite quickly in the people. I think that can happen. This is what I am arguing for here.

  • @bambam: yeah i know your views, but others don’t.

    @jehad: i agree that we cannot know for sure and democracy is a trial-and-error process where a country will stumble through towards achieving success. but im not sure a country like ours can afford an extreme and sudden change in political systems. i am a believer in taking steps towards democratic systems, and a believer in the constitutional monarchy (which is no different than the King’s already publicly stated beliefs. unfortunately, the state has been crawling at best, and now, because of that, we need leaps and not steps.

    as for the birthday party, while i have heard about it i have not seen any evidence verifying it. just because someone at the new york times heard about it and decided to write about it, doesn’t make it accurate. emphasis on the word accurate here.

  • @NAS.. I am certain that the current situation will only get jordan in more debt, more corruption, and more trouble. The economy is in shambles and will only get worse as the regime is trying to buy its way out of trouble with money the state doesn’t have. We must get to the point where whoever is in power understands that they are where they are because the people put them there, not because the US want them there. We must get to the point where no one ever should believe that they have a god given right over a seat of government or authority. We must get to a point where the those in authority bend to the will of the people not the other way round.

    As for the seems to be true, as the royal court’s statement regarding Habib’s report to AFP refuted many things in her report but not the party. Don’t take me wrong , I have always liked the queen and always thought of her as a role model for jordanian and arab women as well as the best person to promote jordan’ interests abroad. But, are these serevices cost effective??

  • I find it rather refreshing that you pointed out the difference between protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan.

    While the youth definitely watched closely the change in Egypt, I do not know if we will witness the same, or even remotely similar revolution for several reasons:

    1- Like you pointed out, the protesters that sparked these revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia are young, while in Jordan it’s not the same. The percentage of young people who participate in protests or lead them is very low.

    2- Protesters kept their demands for 3 weeks, even with economy taking a bad turn, with one spirit; no obvious political leaders or agendas, almost everyone went out for the same reason. Whereas in Jordan, the TV reporter in Amman [of Al-Jazeera] yesterday was flooded by a dozen of people who fought over the microphone so there is no civil organized planning, without any regards to particular parties or groups.

    3- With people enraged by recent changes, having in mind at least Al-Bakhit’s new government, the subject of protests is not unified; some are directing their anger,for instance, towards the Queen (especially after Habib’s news story), others are directing it against unemployment, when it really needs to be directed at the entire system and its consecutive failures. What is needed big time is a massive change that leaves out nepotism, problems of planning, and corruption. Changing figures only will not solve dilemmas, but perhaps changing the approach will.

    4- Sadly, there is no consistence in protests in Jordan; though people are fed up, they are soon silenced or delayed.

    Hopefully, Jordanians will rise up to the challenge, and at least realise that they that unless they stand together organized and consistent, they will not score real reforms. The country needs its own revolution in terms of democracy, reasoning, expression and planning.

  • A famous woman once said:

    “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters ”
    “Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element”.

    greed, laziness, irresponsibilty and ignorance are the enemies of freedom and democracy in Jordan (just see what happened today in Zarqa, rediculous), reform needs hard work, including intellectual work. Is the “new” Government qualified for achieiving “real” reforms.

Your Two Piasters: