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Royal Hashemite Court (Jordan)

King: Jordan seeks to ensure pluralism in proper democracy
Amman, 12 January 2013

His Majesty King Abdullah stressed in a recent interview that pluralism is central to Jordan’s evolutionary reform programme and home-grown democratisation efforts. Jordan is endeavouring to “ensure pluralism and the appropriate checks and balances for a properly functioning democracy,” King Abdullah said.

Speaking to Le Nouvel Observateur’s Sara Daniel, King Abdullah said Jordan seeks to “develop a vibrant civic culture, provide all political forces with a level playing field to fairly compete at the ballot boxes, protect minorities’ rights and safeguard citizens’ rights as per our Constitution.”

His Majesty stressed that “Jordan has embraced the Arab Spring since its start” as an opportunity to push forward an unprecedented political reform process, with wide-ranging amendments to one-third of the Constitution, new democratic institutions such as the Independent Elections Commission and the Constitutional Court, and stronger check and balance mechanisms.

The King also explained that Jordanians, on January 23, will go to the polls “to determine for the first time not only the formation of the next parliament, but the next government, too, as we start piloting a parliamentary government system, which will require several parliamentary cycles to properly evolve in conjunction with the evolution of political parties in Jordan.”

In response to a question about developments in Jordan’s political life, His Majesty said: “Jordan has always been a constitutional monarchy that evolves and changes together with the political system and as per the wishes of the majority of citizens, as people participate more directly to the decisions that affect their lives.”

“One of the traditional prerogatives of Jordanian kings was the designation of prime ministers — designation only, since no Jordanian prime minister could ever stay in office without obtaining and maintaining the vote of confidence of the elected parliament. That is about to change now, starting from these elections, on January 23, when the designation of the new prime minister will be based on consultation with the majority coalition of parliamentary blocs emerging from the new parliament or the overall parliamentary blocs if no clear majority emerges. The prime minister-designate will then consult with the parliamentary blocs to form the new parliamentary government, which will still have to obtain and maintain parliament’s vote of confidence,” the King said.

“As political parties evolve over parliamentary cycles, the parliamentary blocs will be based on political parties.”

His Majesty underlined that a lot of intense work needs to be done in Jordan “to institutionalise the role of opposition in parliament.”

“We want the opposition to compete seriously for government and to play an active role in parliament in monitoring governments,” he said.

“Opposition forces need to actually serve as a ‘shadow government’ as in parliamentary democracies, and compete with incumbent governments in offering visions, programmes and solutions, and monitor their performance.”

The real challenge facing the opposition today, the King said, “is voters’ reluctance to join political parties.”

“According to opinion polls, more than 90 per cent of Jordanians are averse to joining political parties, a matter that requires serious efforts on the part of the next parliament and government as well as the opposition, to develop platforms that encourage citizens to become members in political parties and that respond to the interests of voters and encourage them to make voting decisions based on party platforms.”

On the Middle East peace process, His Majesty underlined that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the main reason for regional instability and turmoil, adding that finding a solution to the conflict is Jordan’s foreign policy priority.

Responding to a question on the possibility to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the King said: “I clearly see a window of opportunity that we cannot afford to waste again, as of next month, after the inauguration of President [Barack] Obama and the Israeli elections.”

“I see a confluence of several factors that altogether can contribute towards a strong push to solve this 65-year-long conflict before it is too late for the two-state solution. One factor is a second-term US president who deeply understands the complexities of this conflict, along with the emergence of a strong political will globally on the urgent need to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the wider Arab-Israeli conflict,” His Majesty said.

Another factor, he continued, is the recent UN vote recognising Palestine as a non-member observer state.

“All of this creates a window of opportunity for a push to revive the peace process and renew the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations on the basis of the two state-solution and in a manner that ensures the resolution of all final status issues.”

In response to a question on the situation in Syria, the King underlined: “What is more important is to have consensus on a plan for the transition of power and the day after, a plan that ensures an inclusive transition and preserves the territorial integrity of the country and the unity of its people.”

“Each group in Syrian society, including the Alawites, must feel that they have a stake in the future of the country. The fragmentation or implosion of Syria would have disastrous consequences for the whole region, and could ignite conflicts for generations to come,” His Majesty warned.