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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora