Jordan’s King Abdullah II forms committee to modernize political system

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Jordan’s King Abdullah II said on Thursday he was seeking qualitative changes to the kingdom’s political system amid socio-economic turmoil.

The country has been ruled by the Hashemite monarchy for 100 years.

The king has formed a majority loyalist committee to formulate proposals for political reform centered on the 130-member parliament, which has little power in Jordan.

Last week, a tribal politician called on his supporters to challenge the monarch’s authority, prompting the largely pro-government parliament to impeach him.

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“We intend to make a qualitative leap in political and parliamentary life,” said the king in a letter to the chairman of the committee, former Prime Minister Samir Al Rifai.

According to the royal court, the committee will be composed of 92 members, headed by Mr. Rifai.

Jordan is in recession and unemployment officially hits a record 24 percent. The government said last year it had increased the welfare budget as more people sought help.

Several independent committees have been formed to submit proposals for political reform since the king succeeded his father, the late King Hussein, in 1999. These have been established mainly in times of political and economic uncertainty.

Power is concentrated with the king. The tribal-dominated parliament is a forum for government-sanctioned criticism. Jordanian tribes are also a major component of the security forces and widely employed by the state, as opposed to the private sector.

    King Abdullah II, Supreme Commander of the Jordanian Armed Forces and the Arab Army, accompanied by Crown Prince Al Hussein, attends the ceremony of the FAC and security agencies marking the state's centenary.  Courtesy of the Hashemite Royal Court

The king said the committee’s mission was to “modernize the political system” and make proposals for a new electoral law for the legislature.

Parliamentary seats are largely allocated to remote constituencies that have relatively small populations.

The king instructed the committee to “make recommendations on modernizing the legislation that governs local government and broadening the basis for participation in decision-making.”

He did not give details but said he wanted a block-based parliament “with programs” and progress “in the way the executive exercises its powers.”

On Monday, the monarch ordered the end of the current session of the sitting parliament.

The decision came a day after parliament ousted Osama Al Ajarmeh, a tribal deputy from the urban and agricultural region of Naour, south of Amman.

In an address to his supporters last week, Mr Al Ajarmeh made derogatory remarks about the king and called on his supporters to disobey the monarch.

At the end of April, the king freed 16 tribesmen from other areas who the authorities said were involved in the sedition.

The 16 were related to Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a half-brother of the king, who had sought to woo the tribes.

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King Abdullah attends JAF ceremony

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Much of the Jordanian tribe declared their allegiance to the Hashemites when King Abdullah I, the current king’s great-grandfather, founded what would become the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with British support in the early 1920s.

The tribes are concentrated mainly in central and southern Jordan. But a large part of the country’s 10 million inhabitants are of Palestinian origin.

The Palestinian populations of the kingdom are mainly concentrated in the urban areas of northern and central Jordan. Most of their ancestors fled the conflict that erupted after the creation of Israel in 1948 and during the 1967 war.


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