Jordan: A Democratic Audit
Democracy Beyond the State
Dr. Adli Hawwari
This part of the long questionnaire consists of two subcategories: external influences on the country’s democracy (4.1); and the country’s democratic impact abroad (4.2).
4.1: External Influences
This subcategory has four questions. The highest mean, 4.3, is shared by two questions. The first is 4.1.2: ‘How equitable is the degree of influence exercised by the government within the bilateral, regional and international organizations to whose decisions it may be subject?’ The marks given by the six assessors are 2, 3, 5, 5, 5, and 6.
Jordan has bilateral agreements with Arab countries. It is a member of the Arab League and UN. In bilateral agreements with Arab states, the influence will be mutually agreed. The Arab League is not known to be an effective body, especially in relation to agreements over political issues. At the UN, the influence will be similar to other developing countries. Permanent members of the UN Security Council have more influence than any other member state.
The other question which shares the highest mean of 4.3 in this subcategory is 4.1.3: ‘How far are the government’s negotiating positions and subsequent commitments within these organizations subject to effective legislative oversight and public debate?’ The marks given by the six assessors are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 6.
The legislative oversight is limited when it exists, as has been stated repeatedly. Parliament can be dissolved anytime by the king without giving reasons. The public debate can take place whether the government wishes or not. If an issue was not debated in the press, it would be debated in the private sphere.
The lowest mean, 3.3, belongs to question 4.1.1: ‘How free is the country from external influences which undermine or compromise its democratic process or national interests?’ The marks given by the six assessors are 1, 2, 4, 4, 4, and 5.
There are external influences that supposedly promote democracy in Jordan through CSOs by organizing conferences and training related to issues such as human rights, gender equality, and good governance. However, there are other influences which undermine reforms that can lead to a meaningful democratic process. The most influential factor is Jordan alliance with the US and the West. Jordan took upon itself to take part in the ‘war on terror’ and felt this was justified, especially after the hotel bombings in Amman in 2005. Whether this kind of external influence undermines the national interests depends on the perspective. The government considers its position to be in the national interest. The opposition thinks otherwise.
4.2: Democratic Impact Abroad
This subcategory has five questions. The highest mean, 7.3, belongs to question 4.2.2: ‘How far does the government support the UN and agencies of international cooperation, and respect the rule of law internationally?’ The marks given by the six assessors are 5, 6, 6, 7, 10, 10, and 10.
Jordan is respectful of UN resolutions, and is cooperative with various UN agencies. For instance, UNESCO and UNDP have offices in the country. Jordan also contributed forces to UN peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Kosovo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The size of the force varies from one region to another, and sometimes the involvement includes medical assistance. There are Jordanian forces in Afghanistan. The government considers this a contribution to peacekeeping and a form of assistance to a Muslim country. However, people in opposition see it as involving Jordan in the American ‘war on terror’.
In 2010, a committee of ulamā’ affiliated to IAF issued a fatwa which considered the participation of Muslim forces with NATO in the fighting in Afghanistan to be contrary to Islamic principles. The government and supporters reacted with anger. They insisted that the participation was part of peacekeeping and had a humanitarian purpose.
The lowest mean, 3, in this subcategory belongs to question 4.2.4: ‘How far is the government’s international policy subject to effective parliamentary oversight and public influence?’ The marks given by the six assessors are 0, 1, 2, 3, 3, and 6.
The international policy is not subject to parliamentary supervision. The king plays an active role in Jordan’s international policy. The government assists rather than initiates or supervises. The public influenced Jordan’s policy towards Iraq for a limited period in 1990, as public sentiments were synchronous with King Hussein’s desire to find an Arab solution to the crisis caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. His attempt failed. Jordan and King Hussein were ostracized for a while by the Gulf and Western states. He endeavoured to repair Jordan’s damaged relations with them. The peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and the eagerness to normalize relations with it were steps in that direction.
To conclude this chapter, one can say that the mean of marks in many cases was low. Because Jordan lacked most of the features of the ‘ideal’ democratic system, as envisaged by the democratic audit, the discussion of the data contained what could be considered repetitive information. This was due to the design of the questionnaire, whose questions would benefit from a re-examination to see how it could be used to assess democratic and undemocratic countries.
The detailed assessment was necessary to avoid basing the appraisal on fifteen questions only. Also, it provided the opportunity to recognize some positive features. There were means higher than seven, and one was close to nine. Without this detailed appraisal, these could not be identified. Although the assessment did not cover all the questions, the full data are available in the appendices.
After more than half of the questions from all the subcategories had been outlined, a fair picture of the state of democracy emerged: the system of government was not democratic after twenty years of ‘the resumption of democratic life’ declared by King Hussein in 1989. What about the years 2011-2019?
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(1) The study was republished in part or whole in Jordanian news sites. The website arabellanews republished the full version, and indicated that it was originally published in an Egyptian journal.
(2) The official name is Gamal Abdel Nasser Square. It is one of the busiest intersections in Amman.
(3) I refrained from using ‘black September’ out of respect for our black brothers and sisters in humanity who find it offensive to associate ‘black’ with negative events and actions.
Adli Hawwari (2020). Reluctant Liberalisation: A Democratic Audit of Jordan, 1989-2019. London: Ud Al -Nad Ltd.
- Jordan: A Democratic Audit