Monarchical Pluralism or De-Democratization: Actors and Choices in Jordan

Article excerpt

Given the nascent democratization efforts of the Hashemite Kingdom that have been underway since 1989, the case of Jordan epitomizes one of the most striking examples of the Arab world in demonstrating the case of controlled and/ or defensive liberalization. The demographic imbalance, 'ethnic' division, and processes of identity-building constitute the main local dynamics in circumscribing and mostly restricting democratization efforts of the Hashemite regime particularly in the post 1994 era. The peace process with Israel since 1994 pushed the regime to take pre-emptive measures in coping with the growing opposition in resisting normalization of relations with Israel. In this respect, at the first stage i.e. the years between 1989 and 1993--the regime inaugurated the necessary laws to abolish political repression. However, at the second stage of political liberalization, the period after 1993, the Kingdom began to pursue a policy of controlled liberalization in the name of regime-survival strategy, which became clearly apparent with the reformulation of the electoral law in 1993. Similarly, Jordan has found it difficult to handle the imperatives of the state and the preferences of its society in the aftermath of the Al-Aqsa intifada (Second Palestinian intifada). The regime has sought to de-liberalize the political landscape through re-defining the demarcations of a Jordanian citizen under the "Jordan First, Arab Second Campaign" particularly in the aftermath of Amman Bombings in 2006.

Looking at the emergence of the current social upheavals in the Arab world, the Kingdom demonstrates an exceptional case in the region in coping with the growing opposition in the name of more political and economic reforms. In this respect, the incomparable position of the Kingdom--as compared to Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya--is derived from the discourses and the demands the protestors articulated in the rallies. When the effects of the Arab Spring and the public rallies in Jordan are taken into consideration, it is evident that the case of Jordan is dissimilar to Egypt or Tunisia. The reason behind this dissimilarity derives from the criticism of the public demonstrations which were not directed against the very existence of the monarchy, but rather organized on the grounds of demands for more political freedom and problem of unemployment. In brief, Jordan symbolizes one of the main examples of the Arab Spring in the region where the 'protestors ask little' (1) and did nothing to end the monarchical rule.

Under the effects of demographic imbalance and regional challenges, Jordan is being urged to pursue two vital and at the same time controversial necessities. On the one hand, the durability and longevity of the monarchy is highly dependent on the viability of future democratic reforms, and on the other hand, the Kingdom's regime-survival approach necessitates retreat from political reformation.

Thus, first, this article aims to explore the efforts of political liberalization in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by formulating the main local and regional determinants behind this very process. Second, this article will articulate the impacts of these determinants on Jordan's ongoing democratization endeavor. In addition, the article will analyze the trends towards democratization in Jordan with a specific reference to the opportunities and the pitfalls of democratization in re-addressing the role and future position of the main opposition in the country--the Muslim Brotherhood Society (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin). The reason behind these objectives derive from the main character of the political wing of the Ikhwan, i.e. the Islamic Action Front (IAF, Jabha al-Amal al-Islami)--which is imperative to demonstrate the implications of growing Jordanian Islamist activism on the processes of regime-led political reformation.

From an 'Old Style' Monarchical Authoritarianism to a 'Newly Constructed' Monarchical Pluralism

The political history of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan--as a separate entity--dates back to 1921 when British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill raised the issue of establishing a corridor emirate between the Arab world and Palestine that would continue to assist the Hashemites to fulfill their incomplete Arab nationalist goals. …