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Royal Hashemite Court (Jordan)

Kingdom to have new Parliament, parliamentary government next year — King
Amman, 12 September 2012

His Majesty King Abdullah said Jordan will have a new Parliament by the new year, reiterating that the countdown for the elections has already begun. King Abdullah said the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to boycott the polls is a “tremendous miscalculation”.

“Registration is under way — we have already crossed the one-million person mark. Parliament will be dissolved. The elections date will be announced. And we will have a new Parliament by the new year,” the King said in an interview with Agence France-Presse published on Wednesday.

“Let me say, this transition to parliamentary government is a historic moment for Jordan, and the upcoming elections are the fundamental requirement for this transition,” the King said.

The upcoming elections, slated for later this year, will determine the make-up of the new Parliament and that of the new government, His Majesty told AFP’s Amman Bureau Chief Ahmad Khatib.

“We don’t yet have strong political parties representing right, left and centre — there will likely be several political parties, some independents, and some blocs — so the next Parliament will almost certainly have to form bloc-based coalitions to form the government.

“And that government, as long as it maintains a majority, should stay in office throughout the parliamentary cycle — four years, four watershed years in Jordanian political history. I think every voter will want to cast his or her ballot on what those years should bring.”

The King said the new government will have a daunting task ahead of it. “The new government will also have to deal with the tremendous challenges facing Jordanian citizens.  So voting in the upcoming elections basically means determining not only the next Parliament, but the next government, too. And, by doing so, influencing policy and decision making on issues that matter most deeply to every Jordanian.”

His Majesty highlighted that the upcoming polls will be the first in the history of the Kingdom to be managed by an independent body, adding that new voters lists are being prepared for the first time since 1989.

“Voter registration will be a critical step and milestone along our roadmap to reform. And it is the first time since 1989 that we are rebuilding the voters register, under the oversight of the Independent Elections Commission,” His Majesty said.

“The Jordanian Spring will culminate in the elections which will usher in the Jordanian Summer — our season of hard work and delivery," the King added.

His Majesty stressed that it is in the best interest of all political groupings to participate in the polls.

“As constitutional Monarch my mandate is to be the umbrella for all political groupings and all segments of our society, and as part of that responsibility, I am telling the Muslim Brotherhood that they are making a tremendous miscalculation.”

“This Elections Law is not perfect. We all understand that. But there is no better consensus on an alternative. What is critical is that we keep going forward, and — mark my words — we will have a new Parliament by the new year,” His Majesty stressed.

“The law in place today is the product of the constitutional process. It factored in many competing interests, proposals and visions from the different political groupings. And the debate was intense.

“And during all this time, all suggestions and drafts to date… have been met with varying degrees of rejection by the Muslim Brotherhood. And that’s regrettable,” the King said.

“… We cannot in Jordan create a law tailored to just one political party or minority grouping that happens to be the most vocal.”

The King pointed out that the law can be revisited by the new Parliament.
“… My message to all parties and political forces is this: If you want to change Jordan for the better, there is a way and there is an opportunity. The way is through the next Parliament, and the opportunity is the upcoming elections,” the King added, noting that “for that to happen” all citizens and parties must actively participate in the electoral process.

“So I’m telling the Muslim Brotherhood, you have a choice. To stay in the street or to help build the new democratic Jordan.”

“We are confident enough with the reform process not to use regional challenges to step away from what Jordanians want to achieve — a strong drive for reform. We will continue with the reform process and our drive for elections by the end of this year,” the King stressed.

Responding to questions on the situation in Syria and its impact on the Kingdom, the King said the interests and security of Jordan come first.

“Jordan has not considered imposing a buffer zone, but obviously we reserve the sovereign right to consider all options to safeguard the interests and security of Jordan. My first and foremost duty is to protect Jordan and its citizens.”

His Majesty reiterated that Jordan will always work within Arab and international consensus in accordance with international laws.

“That said, our priority continues to be to work for a solution based on a peaceful political transition within the international legal framework,” the King noted, expressing fear over the possible fragmentation of Syria.

“I am extremely worried about the risk of a fragmentation of Syria. Over the past few months we have witnessed an increase in sectarian violence,” he said.

“This not only endangers the unity of Syria, but it could also be a prelude to a spillover of the conflict, into neighbouring countries with similar sectarian composition. We have already seen signals that this risk is looming closer.”

His Majesty also highlighted the burden of hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan.
“The cost of all this is obviously huge, and we could not meet it alone. Jordan has a record budget deficit, due mainly to the disruptions in the Egyptian gas supply. The demands on our services infrastructure and limited resources are also high.

 “International support is vital, and so far the response of the international community has been very positive. We can only hope it will continue in this way.”

On the Kingdom’s economy, the King said the subsidy system must be reformed to ensure that the subsidies are directed to the segments that deserve it.

 “The global financial and economic crises dealt a heavy blow to economies much stronger than ours. But the coup de grace was the energy crisis at a time of unprecedentedly increasing energy and food prices.

 “Nothing could be worse for a country that imports 96 per cent of its energy and 87 per cent of its food. Then we lost our gas supply from Egypt — the gas pipeline in the Sinai was blown up over 14 times since February 2011 — and Egypt this year has been pumping only about 16 per cent of contracted quantities, and only around 30 per cent last year.

“This unforeseen development doubled our energy bill and made our budget deficit skyrocket,” he explained.

 “…The number one reason for the unprecedented budget deficit and extraordinary increase in national debt was the continuous interruptions in the gas supply from Egypt, at a time of historic highs in energy and food prices globally.”

“Let me emphasise here that our friends in the international community will only help us if we help ourselves as a nation first. Our donors and lenders are requesting that we lift subsidies,” the King said.

“If we can find a way of lifting subsidies, while protecting the lower-income segments and not compromising on our strategic goal of supporting the middle class, then aid to Jordan will flow more easily… This is why I have called for redirecting blanket subsidies, to provide subsidies to the segments that deserve it.”

When asked about the anti-nuclear movement in Jordan, the King said he understood “those who are anti-nuclear because of safety concerns”, adding that strong opposition to the Kingdom’s nuclear programme comes from Israel.

“Strong opposition to Jordan’s nuclear energy programme is coming from Israel. When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us.

“And pretty soon we realised that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us. A Jordanian delegation would approach a potential partner, and one week later an Israeli delegation would be there, asking our interlocutors not to support Jordan’s nuclear energy bid.”

He stressed that nuclear energy “is one of the cheapest energy sources around”.

 “As for plant construction costs, we have to look at this seriously. But let me give you a simple comparison. The nuclear power plant that the government is looking at would cost about JD3.5 billion for a plant that would constitute one-third of the total power capacity generated in Jordan today.

“The attacks on the Egyptian gas pipeline over the past two years have cost us already JD2.8 billion. That could have paid for almost one reactor,” the King elaborated.

In his closing remarks, His Majesty expressed disappointment in local media, noting that they are not giving enough coverage to success stories.

“Unfortunately, all the good stories do not find space in our media. Some of our media shy away from balanced reporting while others took only half of the challenge — they took the freedom, but not the responsibility.

“This is disheartening. Some went even further, using blackmail and intimidation for personal gain and personal agendas.

Although you will not hear of our success stories from our media, or from some of our political circles and intelligentsia, who always see the glass half empty, when I go out to the governorates, or with the army, when I sit with young people anywhere in the country, I get an injection of energy, pride and hope,” His Majesty said.