Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Jordan’s opposition demands real power

Jordanians are determined that the time for pretend democracy is over, says Khetam Malkawi

Al-Ahram Weekly

Although calm was restored in Jordan following days of riots and violent protests against the government’s decision to lift subsidies on petrol and fuel derivatives, this calmness is described by some analysts as the “calm before the storm”.

For how long this calmness would prevail remains unclear. In mid November, demonstrators across the Kingdom’s 12 governorates went to streets for four consecutive days rejecting the decision of Abdallah Ensour’s government to lift subsidies on fuel. Protesters burned cars, public properties and some were chanting slogans against the monarch.

Then, calm prevailed, except for some peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations. But this calmness according to political and economic analyst Awni Dawoud, might not prevail.

“It was the government’s media propaganda that controlled people anger,” Dawoud told Al-Ahram Weekly. In addition, Jordanians were watching the developments in some of the neighbouring countries and the results of revolutions that they consider as “unsatisfactory”, leading them to calm down, according to Dawoud.

However, Jordanians’ anger might renew if the government announces more decision that would affect citizens’ economic security. “The government’s only hope is to receive financial assistance from the Gulf countries. Other than that it will not be able to survive on the loan of $2 billion promised by the World Bank,” Dawoud explained, noting that no assistance from the Gulf countries will lead the government to lift subsidies on electricity and water.

He noted that subsidising electricity alone cost the government around $2 billion a year.

“This is the scenario that Jordanians will not be able to handle”, Dawoud said.

Political analyst Oraib Rantawi also echoed Dawoud’s opinion. Although the public stopped their violent demonstrations, anger is still there, according to Rantawi, who said that further rise of prices will “definitely” lead to the renewal of anger. “Citizens will soon feel the impact of the hike in fuel prices on other commodities,” Rantawi told the Weekly, adding that Jordanians are frustrated because of the current economic difficulties and this started to have an impact on the country’s politics.

According to Rantawi, Jordanians are showing less interest in the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for January 2013. The elections, he said, will not be a success if other issues are not addressed before balloting. Currently, “we need a national salvation government to present solutions for the country’s economic and political problems,” Rantawi proposed.

Although he is not in favour of postponing the elections, Rantawi insisted that solutions for the Kingdom’s accumulative problems should be presented as soon as possible.

But, for Islamists, demonstrations and calls for reform will not stop, with proposed plans for both economic and political reform as they claimed. Zaki Bani Irshaid of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Weekly that next Friday will be a turning point.

Bani Irshaid said a huge demonstration will take place on Friday with the participation of political parties and activists of the National Front for Reform (NFR), headed by Ahmed Obeidat, a former prime minister and head of the General Intelligence Department. “Jordanians are yet to start showing their anger. Next Friday protests will reach their peak,” Bani Irshaid claimed.

This time, the Muslim Brotherhood said they have proposals that seek to achieve not only political reform, but also economic reform in response to critics who challenged the Islamists to come with economic solutions. Bani Irshaid said, the Muslim Brotherhood is currently preparing a plan to address the country’s economic difficulties.

The plan seeks to exploit the Kingdom’s natural resources including oils shale and uranium, in addition to increasing revenues generated from the phosphate and potash industries. The plan will also include increasing expenditure on education and health, while reducing the military budget. In addition, the proposal seeks to adopting a progressing taxation system, under which those who earn more, pay more.

As for the political reform plan, the IAF Secretary-General Hamza Mansour said the group has proposed the postponement of the parliamentary elections slated for 23 January, and restoring of the dissolved parliament. Adopting this proposal would pave the way for a national dialogue on the 2012 elections law that was rejected by the group, he said.

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