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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs