Issue No.1142, 4 April, 2013      03-04-2013 04:34PM ET

Not built to last

The exclusion of MPs — any — from Jordan’s new government has raised eyebrows in the kingdom, writes Khetam Malkawi

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Following three weeks of consultations with members of the lower house of the Jordanian parliament over the formation of his second government, incumbent Prime Minister Abdallah Ensour formed a cabinet that does not include any MP.

The lower house was surprised with new cabinet, labelling it “traditional”. The opposition, too, slammed the new government.

Ensour brought nothing new into the government aside from assigning two or three portfolios to certain ministers.

In a bid to win a vote of confidence, the premier kept the carrot dangling for MPs, saying his government would see a reshuffle in the upcoming months that would include ministers.

King Abdullah II reappointed Ensour 9 March to form a new government. Two days later, the 73-year-old premier started consultations with the 150-seat parliament, while the resigned government continued to serve until the new cabinet was formed.

With 19 members, including Ensour, the government was announced and sworn in this week, becoming immediately a target for criticism.

The smallest government since 1972, Ensour said that in upcoming months some of the extra portfolios stacked upon select ministers would be split between lawmakers, according to their performance.

“This is a continuation of the traditional approach to forming a government,” said the Islamic Centric parliamentary bloc that is affiliated with the Islamic Centric Party.

The bloc of 18 members said the composition of the new government is proof that it is not serious in dealing with the people’s representatives — MPs.

The three weeks of consultations with deputies was only a waste of time, the bloc said in a statement issued the day the government was sworn in.

Back to the streets with demands for constitutional amendments will be the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamic Action Front (IAF), the largest political party in the country, boycotted parliamentary elections because of the electoral law.

The secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front, Hamza Mansour, told Al-Ahram Weekly that, “Nothing is new with the formation of this government... completely traditional.

“We want a parliamentary government, but before that the elections law should be amended allowing the largest bloc or party to form the government,” he said.

With the present formation, “the government cannot even conduct the desired reforms,” he noted.

But Ensour, according to reports, has a plan in mind. He did not include MPs in his cabinet over concerns that the kingdom’s first parliamentary government in decades would fail.

“I did not take the risk of including MPs whom I do not know in my government because if, for one reason or another, they show unsuccessful performance, the parliamentary government will fail,” Ensour said.

Some are sceptical. Although Ensour said that a small government with some of its members having more than one portfolio leaves the door open for including MPs in the future, tension will dominate the relation between the executive and legislative authorities, according to columnist and Al-Ghad daily Editor-in-Chief Jumana Ghuneimat.

Ghuneimat added that the premier did not meet the minimum demands made by deputies. She also criticised assigning more than one portfolio to some ministers, noting that this will be negatively reflected in performance.

According to Ghuneimat, there were expectations that the new government would stay for four years in office. But the list of names shows it will not last long.

Columnist Batir Wordom agrees. He said the formation of the government makes it obvious that there will be a reshuffle soon. He added that realising the reshuffle plan, some ministers will feel insecure, while those running two or three ministries will find that difficult to handle.

It is a matter of time. Jordanians are counting the days for their 77th government to be amended, with few having high expectations regarding its performance.

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