News / Middle East

Amman Rally Calls for Major Reforms in Jordan

The Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front supporters carry banners and a large Jordanian flag at the biggest protest in the kingdom since late 2010, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP)The Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front supporters carry banners and a large Jordanian flag at the biggest protest in the kingdom since late 2010, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP)
x
The Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front supporters carry banners and a large Jordanian flag at the biggest protest in the kingdom since late 2010, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP)
The Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front supporters carry banners and a large Jordanian flag at the biggest protest in the kingdom since late 2010, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP)
David Arnold
The Muslim Brotherhood led more than 15,000 chanting protesters through central Amman Friday demanding an end to corruption and far-reaching political reforms to give Jordanian voters a bigger role in shaping the country’s future.
 
The number of marchers was well below the 50,000 organizers had predicted, but the event took place without a major security problem. A group supporting King Abdullah had planned a march at the same time, but decided to call it off to avoid possible violence.
 
Jordan’s role in the Arab Spring movement has been muted compared to the social and political upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and neighboring Syria. Friday’s event, a demonstration held in front of Al Husseini Mosque in central Amman, was being billed as the largest in Jordan since the beginning of the Arab Spring.
 
Measuring the success of the Amman protest

“Let’s say it’s less than they wanted,” said David Schenker, a scholar from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who met with Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh the day before the protest.  “I think … it’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality.”
 
One measure of the rally’s impact, Schenker said, was the participation of bloggers and other new media journalists and of members of al-Hirak, a small group of tribalists formally loyal to the monarchy.
 
The thing that undoubtedly worries the kingdom is whether there is a growing of the Hirak, this tribally based opposition - 
For several months, Hirak leaders have called in hundreds of anti-corruption protesters for regular Friday protests, but the numbers had declined in recent weeks when many of its leaders were arrested, Schenker said.
 
Journalists are now operating dozens of blogs and web sites accusing the government of corruption and repression of free speech. They are challenging a new national law requiring that print and new media operations register and get government licenses.  More than 50 online journalists have refused to register.
 
Friday’s rally organizers planned it so that Hirak representatives and journalists would take the lead in the event, leaving a Muslim Brotherhood member to speak last.
 
“The Brotherhood doesn’t want to be seen as the spearhead of this movement,” Schenker said.
 
“The thing that undoubtedly worries the kingdom is whether there is a growing of the Hirak, this tribally based opposition,” he said.
 
Corruption is a major target of protesters
 
Demands for an end to corruption have played a big role in previous demonstrations and continue to fuel widespread frustration with the monarchy and the government, Schenker said.
 
“It’s not that the king has to open up the political system entirely to the Islamists,” he said. Modest reforms would help ease public fears, “but at the same time he has to do something about the corruption in the kingdom. 
 
“The palace reaction has not been satisfactory to assuage the genuine concerns on the street,” Schenker said.  “There is a great disparity between the rich and the poor in the kingdom and there is a lot of conspicuous consumption and people see it. There is a $3 billion deficit this year out of a $9.6 billion budget and people say, ‘Hey, where did the money go,’ and people say, ‘Hey how come the king just bought a new $440-million plane?’
 
“This is an issue that resonates throughout the kingdom I think across, whether they are Palestinians, East Bankers or Jordanians,” he added.
 
Pushing toward a constitutional monarchy
 
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political agenda is highlighted by two reforms that would push Jordan toward a constitutional monarchy.
 
The Brotherhood is arguing for changes that would take away the king’s power to select the prime minister and the members of the upper house of parliament. The Brotherhood also proposes that members of both houses of parliament be popularly elected and elected parliamentarians would then choose the prime, who in turn would create his own cabinet.
 
“There’s been a real dearth of political parties,” Schenker said. “And so what the Brotherhood wants … is that the largest bloc in the parliament to be able to choose the government.
 
A number of political activists are now openly and repeatedly calling for a limitation of the monarchy’s powers
“The king and the traditional power centers in the kingdom oppose this because this is really one step closer to a constitutional monarchy…  The king has spoken about a move to a constitutional monarchy but this is clearly not something he is prepared to do… The bottom line is people want more representation,” he said.
 
More and larger protests to come?
 
Demand for change and the resulting conflict experienced during Arab Spring movements in other countries has been more muted in Jordan, but that may be changing.
 
“A number of political activists are now openly and repeatedly calling for a limitation of the monarchy’s powers,” David Fox and Katrina Sammour write in a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace paper called Disquiet on the Jordanian Front, published at the end of September. The say that in the last month, Jordan witnessed “a massive – and potentially irreversible - shift of strategy among segments of Jordan’s opposition movement.”
 
Marwan Muasher, a former foreign minister of Jordan who is now vice president of studies at the Washington, D.C. offices of Carnegie, had recommended long-term economic and political changes, including penalties for state security agencies that interfere with daily political life.
 
“The dilemma cannot be solved through elections in accordance to a law that lacks national consensus,” Muasher wrote in an article for Al Ghad, an independent Arabic daily published in Amman. “It will only deepen the crisis.
 
“It is time to admit the country is going through a deep political and economic crisis.”

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid