Jordan’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments—A First Step in the Right Direction

Jordan’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments—A Firs
Article
Summary
The recently proposed constitutional amendments could constitute an important move in the political reform process in Jordan, but they are only a first step in the path to promoting true separation of powers and checks and balances.
Related Topics
Related Media and Tools
 

Reactions to Jordan’s proposed constitutional amendments from a committee appointed by King Abdullah II have ranged between two extremes—hailed as a quantum leap forward by some and rejected as merely cosmetic by others. These amendments still have to go through the legislative process before they are adopted, but the proper way to read the amendments and decipher their significance is to understand the wider context. Do they constitute a first step in a much larger roadmap toward total separation of the legislative, judicial, and executive powers? Will they redistribute these powers (strengthening the first two and diluting the third)? Or do they represent the end of the road for Jordan’s political reform process? A clear answer to the questions helps pass judgment on the measures in a more objective and less ideological manner.

To be sure, many of the amendments address demands long put forth by reform groups and the general public. Some of the major amendments proposed include: 
  • The establishment of a constitutional court to monitor the constitutionality of laws and regulations. The court replaces a high tribunal for the interpretation of such laws that was headed by the speaker of the Senate and widely considered less than totally independent.
     
  • The establishment of an independent commission to oversee elections instead of the Ministry of Interior that has previously been in charge of the electoral process. All electoral contestations will be referred to the judiciary instead of parliament.
     
  • The enhancement of civil liberties, including the criminalization of any infringement on rights and public freedoms or on the sanctity of Jordanians’ private life; prohibition of torture in any form; and a declaration that all forms of communication between citizens shall be treated as secret and not subject to censorship, suspension, or confiscation except by judicial order.
     
  • The limitation of the government’s ability to issue temporary laws during the absence of parliament, a practice that governments exercised at will in the past.
     
  • The limitation of the State Security Court’s jurisdiction to cases of high treason, espionage, and terrorism, with citizens being otherwise tried in civilian courts; this includes ministers, who were previously tried by a parliamentary high tribunal. 
     
  • The limitation of the government’s ability to dissolve parliament without having to resign itself.
The amendments stopped short, however, of several other measures. Other than limiting the king’s ability to indefinitely postpone elections, his powers have been left intact. For example, even though it would be difficult to change the practice immediately without party-based parliaments, the king still appoints and dismisses the prime minister and the upper house of parliament. The constitutional committee also debated adding gender to the list of categories of laws that are forbidden to discriminate against, but it opted to keep gender off of the list for religious and political reasons. Finally, the role of the security services in the political affairs of the country was limited through some amendments, but hardly curbed completely. 
 
Still, the amendments are an important first step and the fact that they will go through the constitutional process in only a few weeks is positive. This indicates that the constitution will witness its first major en masse overhaul since it was adopted in 1952. 
 
These amendments should be followed by a more comprehensive, institutional, inclusive, and measurable reform process that offers a more extensive political and economic vision for Jordan’s future. The process should include a time frame for when governments will be formed through a parliamentary majority and for when the selection of a prime minister will be determined by who is the head of that majority. This will only happen once political parties are given a chance to organize and be represented in parliament. The proposed amendments to the electoral law, for example, offer a modest improvement over the current one, but will not lead to the development of political-party based parliaments for the foreseeable future.
 
The other pressing challenge is the actions the regime needs to take in the interim period until a party-based political scene matures, a process that could take several years. The gap between the regime and the people is widening due to pressing issues: a perceived increase in the level of corruption and the lack of seriousness in dealing with it; the need for the rule of law to be applied fairly and equitably; the continued interference by the intelligence services in the non-security aspects of political life in the country and their resistance to reform efforts; and the need for a different mechanism to choose prime ministers and governments that have more credibility until that choice can be made through elected representatives. Until fully accountable governments emerge, much of the load in leading that process falls on the king. He needs to help restore the credibility gap that exists today. 
 
A recent visit to Jordan leaves me convinced that the population—with all of its ethnic and social classes and their various political and economic aspirations—strongly support the monarch leading that process. But they do expect the process to be more serious and lead to concrete results, rather than go through another experience where promises are left largely unfulfilled. The king seems well aware of the challenge, even as he recognizes that he must counter the many forces actively working against change and for the preservation of the status quo—forces that often come from within the political elite and traditional constituency of the regime. 
 
End of document

About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.

 

Comments

 
Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/08/17/jordan-s-proposed-constitutional-amendments-first-step-in-right-direction/5tz7

More from The Global Think Tank

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
 
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.

请注意...

你将离开清华—卡内基中心网站,进入卡内基其他全球中心的网站。