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    Jordanian democracy Essay (2929 words)

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    Democracy and Political Reform in JordanIntroductionThe Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with a population a little over six million and a country of about 97,740 sq. km. is bordered by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the West Bank, and Israel. This country has come a long way politically since its beginning in 1921, when it was formerly known as Transjordan and along with Palestine were only just formed states that followed the Ottoman Empire. They were ruled by the British until 1946, when the British recognized its independence.

    The political history of Jordan has varied much since the starting point of this country. Since the beginning, tribal relations among the people of the land had much influence over the creation of a new state. This influence seeped into the political and social arenas (al-Attiyat, Shteiwi, Sweiss 17). Another influence in Jordan?s politics was when a special turning point occurred in 1989, where a political reform swept the nation. Political parties that had once been barred were re-established. This reform laid the stepping stones for the Jordanians to achieve a democratic administration.

    This small country has surprisingly one of the freest economies in the Middle East and continues its movement of political liberalization, in an attempt to achieve a democratic environment for its citizens (Wikipedia). Assumptions:Jordan still has not achieved a true democratic government yet. Jordan?s politics seems very limited and bounded by the government. No true democracy can really exist under these conditions since freedom of speech and freedom to express new ideas are not allowed in such a society.

    Jordanian culture also hinders the advancement of a democratic administration since loyalty to family and tribe is of central importance and has more priority than most things for the majority of people of this region. GoalThe goal of this research paper is to analyze and inform readers of the political atmosphere and political history of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. MethodologyThe methodology of this paper is an informative one, informing on the past policies, the democratization process Jordan is struggling to continue, and the political reform of Jordan since 1989. An analytical approach will also be used to consider the obstacles facing the Jordanian government to fully up heave its political environment toward a more democratic one. Historical BackgroundThe politics in Jordan currently occurs in a structure of a parliamentary monarchy and a multi-party system.

    Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution instated January 8, 1952 (Wikipedia). Perhaps the most significant and reciprocating turn of events for Jordan?s politics happened during King Hussein?s reign. The doors of democracy opened up by this late king to modernize and ameliorate the political atmosphere of his country. Similarly during this time, the political climate of Jordan had ventured into a period of ?anti-Western nationalism? (Hussein?s early reign). Politics had become tense between many high officials in the government.

    Suleiman Nabulsi, which was later forced to resign, and his administration had sought to end the monarchy and obtain aid from the Soviet Union. These turn of events would later move to impact the political freedom of the country for decades. A Hussein loyalist, Ibrahim Hashim, ultimately established control and barred all political party actions. In 1957, martial law was declared and parties were banned for around three decades. This decision hurt the democracy movement in Jordan and kept politics at a standstill for many years to come and the role of the tribes of Jordan would have a great impact in affairs of the state as the political parties ceased to exist even still so after they would come to be reinstated in 1992. At the turn of the 1980s, Jordan had entered a period of unemployment and poverty brought on by a financial crisis and this in turn led to an uprising and protesting among the citizens demanding democracy (al-Attiyat, Shteiwi, Sweiss 76).

    People began thirsting for the return of parliamentary life. Many factors contributed to the change of thought by the average Jordanian regarding its policies and government. The establishment in the mid 1990s of pan-Arab and transnational satellite television and radio channels widened space to debate that was not subject to national-level restrictions and censorship. In addition, the ratification of many Arab and international conventions related to political and economic reforms and the abolition of all forms of discrimination against women had offered new influence for change.

    The beginning of the 90s saw a new wave of democracy for the Jordanians and since then their claims of democracy have risen with new laws issued to forward this achievement, a quota system was established for women, and political parties continue to seek their influence in its government. Further analysis and examination of this political reform and process in Jordan will be sought out in this research to evaluate the obstacles that lay ahead for the Jordanians to achieve a fully democratic system. TheoreticalRobert Dahl, an American political scientist, has made major contributions to the study of democratic political processes and to the theory of democratic pluralism. The problem of political power sharing in democratic societies has been central to a number of Dahl’s inquiries, including his Preface to Democratic Theory ( 1956 ), which focused on the structures of conflict and compromise through which groups with divergent interests exercise power. For Dahl, conflicting interests were essential to good democratic government. Rather than centralizing power in the hands of a single majority, contested elections ensure that various, not necessarily like-minded minorities determine who holds power.

    In practice, he suggested, the chief issue in democracy is not the tyranny of the majority, but the ways in which minority blocks accommodate or frustrate one another’s demands. Dahl’s influential Who Governs? ( 1964 ) is an empirical study of these processes at the level of city government in New Haven, Connecticut. He revised and extended this theory in several works, including Polyarchy, Participation and Opposition ( 1971 ). Dahl makes his view about democracy clear. No modern country meets the ideal of democracy, which is as a theoretical utopia.

    To reach the ideal requires meeting 5 criteria:1. Effective Participation – Citizens must have adequate and equal opportunities to form their preference and place questions on the public agenda and express reasons for one outcome over the other. 2. Voting Equality at the Decisive Stage – Each citizen must be assured his or her judgments will be counted as equal in weights to the judgments of others. 3.

    Enlightened Understanding – Citizens must enjoy ample and equal opportunities for discovering and affirming what choice would best serve their interests. 4. Control of the Agenda – Demos or people must have the opportunity to decide what political matters actually are and what should be brought up for deliberation. 5. Inclusiveness – Equality must extend to all citizens within the state. Everyone has legitimate stake within the political process.

    Political PartiesThis section talks about the historical background and the seemingly diverse political parties that have attempted to affect the political climate in the government and whether or not they actually make a difference in policy making. Political parties have been a factor in politics since the constitution of 1952 stated the right of citizens to set up and join political parties, and this was confirmed by the Political Parties Law of 1955. During this period, Jordan had active parties and held parliamentary elections that led to a combination government formed by the whole of the country?s political variety. Political parties were a reflection of traditional social structures. Some had pan-Arab nationalist orientations while others were Jordanian nationalist in orientation and sought after a vigorous resistance to the governments of the day and against British influence in the country.

    A more popular political party of that time was the Muslim Brotherhood, led by merchants and businessmen. Party life was subject to disputes in the region and the Arab world, such as the loss of Palestine, and matters such as freedom and liberation from imperialism. Large parts of the population joined these parties. Between 1928 and 1935, these parties held five national conferences, with ample representation of tribes as well as academics, professionals, religious, and ethnic minorities. Experts and researchers in 2003 established that the mindful demands from inside administrations and the voicing of many for change have led to the necessity to restructure government in many Middle Eastern countries (al-Attiyat, Shteiwi, Sweiss 1).

    These researchers further explain that ?Such debates have drawn in a diverse range of groups articulating interests and defining their own political programmes? (al-Attiyat, Shteiwi, Sweiss 1). Types of Political PartiesThirty-one political parties have been approved and licensed since the implementation of the Political Parties Law in 1992. Political Parties are usually classified as being ideological, conservative, and progressive or some other designation. The parties can be divided into four broad groups: Islamist, Leftist, Arab nationalist and Centrist or Jordanian nationalist. The Islamist front is considered to be the essence and starting platform of the Islamist trend and the country?s biggest party. Viewers agree that it is the political support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

    Its chief principals are based on the execution of the Sharia law in Jordan but in a passive and gradual way. The Arab Islamic Democratic Movement was formed in 1993. It is a party with a modern Islamic choice and a flexible one in the sense of its combining the Arab nationalist orientation with Islam. This party has the belief that there is no disagreement between the Arab nationalist orientation and Islam. They instead support each other. Founded in 2001, the Islamic Center Party groups a number of former members of the Islamic Action Front and a number of independent Islamist and deputies who have occupied government posts in the past.

    This party is considered to be more modest than the Islamic Action Front on the foundation of its political and ideological points. The Pan-Arabist orientations are represented by approximately wight parties with ideological roots which go back to the pan-Arab nationalist parties, to the parties that emerged in the 1950s; they have ties to the Syrian Baath Party, the Iraqi Baath Party and the Nasserist trend in Egypt. They include the Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party, which was established in the 1950s and was re-formed in 1993; it considers democracy a basis for forming the state and the party, while it remains a pan-Arab party, which believes in Arab nationalism as a permanent standard. There is also the Arab Baath Progressive Party, which also believes in Arab nationalism and achieving it through democratic struggle.

    It sees policies in individuals Arab states only in relation to the higher Arab interest and believes in socialism and social justice. It opposed the peace process and the economic reform program. The Arab Land Party, set up in 1996, believes in Arab unity and the Arab character of Palestine, political, intellectual and cultural pluralism, and economic integration. Finally, the Jordanian Arab Party, licensed in 2002, considers Jordan the ?beating heart? of the Arab nation, the beacon of freedom and a center of true democracy.

    One of its most important principles is protecting the economic and social rights of citizens. The leftist Orientations are a group with quite a few parties in it, most of which were active and present on the political scene in the 1950s and 1960s. They operated secretly before 1988. The Jordanian Community Party is considered to be a continuation of the Communist Party set up in 1951. The party suffered from being illegal and from being hunted down by the security organizations during the period of martial law.

    The Democratic Socialist Party was formerly part of the JCP party and the slogans it annoced at the time of the split involved the need to be open to different tuped of school of Marxism and move away from ?dogma?. The Jordanian People?s Democratic Party grew out of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine which was present on the Jordanian scene but unable to continue political activity there after the Political Parties Law of 1992. Its principles are based on Marxism and scientific socialism. The Jordanian Progressive Party developed out of Hashd and reflected a split in the DFLP. Its slogans at the time involved renewal, democracy, and a complete break with the DFLP.

    It supports peace process and opposes economic openness in Jordan. The Jordanian Democratic Left Party emerged in 1994 as a result of the merger of three parties-the democratic socialist Party, and the Progressive Democratic Party- and a wing of a leftist party that had split off in 1995. It includes leftist groups favoring renewal, as well as pan-Arabist and liberal Jordanian nationalists. The Jordanian Workers Party split from JCP. At the time of the split it called for ?no dictatorship and ideological rigidity?; it opposed the peace process and the policy of economic openness. Obstacles Facing Political PartiesThe main obstacle facing political parties in Jordan is the fact that most parties do not declare candidates because of the fear that voters from tribal or rural areas will not vote for them if they are seen associated with a particular political party.

    Another important factor of the political parties being held back is that the majority of the deputies are independent or are elected solely based on tribal ties hence, their influence has been modest in the getting members elected. ?There are internal reasons for the weakness of Jordanian parties, connected to their organizational and ideological make-up? (al-Attiyat, Shteiwi, Sweiss 94). There is also the matter of their aptitude to participate against the state in its association with the tribe since Jordanian tribes have been reluctant to give up the political grade that they have achieved in the course of their past correlation with the state. Women?s EmpowermentJordan has seen significant accomplishments in recent years on the subject of women?s rights and empowerment and their raising of status in society. In addition to progressively more entering the workplace, education and politics, women have recently gained a number of rights, represented in amendments in some laws, including a quota of seats for women in Parliament, and requirements related to divorce and marriage. This piece argues about the general account of women?s participation in Jordanian public life and its impact on the circumstances of women in society, the form and reality of women?s participation, such as voting in elections, and active participation in positions of policy making in civil society and state.

    It also scrutinizes the role played by recent developments, such as the taking up of the quota system and the amendments to legislation governing the role of women and their general public image in society. Women?s participation in many areas of politics is very low and there is a continual need to use affirmative action to include women in all aspects of the government. Participation in drafting state policies by taking part in government is an important indicator of the evolution of women?s participation in public decision making, which in turn influences the lives of individuals, both men and women, in society. At this level, participation comprises of being represented in the executive branch of government (Ibtissam Alttayat 25)Female participation in the drafting and execution of government policies and in holding state positions has seen a noticeable increase. Since 1997, four governments have been formed, with women represented in all but one.

    It has also been noted that participation by women has been confined to traditional themes, namely the holding of the same ministerial portfolio of social development, with the exception of Rima Khalaf and Laila Sharaf. No woman has held the post of minister of the interior, foreign minister or prime minister. If we assume that most cabinets comprise 25-30 ministers, then the percentage of women in them has hovered at about 3 percent, or one member, which is a very small percentage that cannot have a strong impact (Ibtissam al-Attiyat, 31). Women?s participation in elected council?s and organizations has changed. In 1982, Jordanian women received the right to vote and stand for election in municipal and village elections.

    Since then, they have voted but refrained from standing for election. Many efforts have been made to encourage women?s positive participation in local politics, by encouraging them to stand in the governorates and municipalities, which until a short ago were considered exclusively for men. The year 1994 was an important turning point for female participation at this level. The Cabinet agreed to appoint 99 women to municipal committees that were set up to prepare for the elections of municipal councils and mayors (Jordan the State). 20 women stood for the municipal election of July 1995 and they are considered a milestone in the history of Jordanian municipal elections.

    Iman Fatimat took many people by surprise when she became the first female mayor in a contest that saw her win in one of the most ?tribal? districts, although a small one, in Khirbay al-wahadina, in Karak (Jordan the State). This unprecedented victory helped to remove the constraints on women that had kept them from trying their politics at the level. It should be noted that women candidates in larger towns and centers were relatively unsuccessful, going down in defeat in the capital, Amman, and in Madaba, Mafraq, Jarash and Karak. These districts are relatively conservative, while the victory of a woman in the south country, where society is supposedly more conservative, which according to Dr.

    Musa Shtwiwi ?can be attributed to the development projects being implemented there by many NGOs? (Jordan State). These projects have helped strengthen women politically by strengthening them economically. Many development projects in less fortunate rural areas have concentrated on engaging women in the development process; they are encouraged to take part in administering local society that is often marginalized in larger towns and policies carried out there.

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