THE BLOG

Jordan Is Not the Next Arab State to Fall

28/01/2014 10:54 GMT | Updated 29/03/2014 09:59 GMT

The Washington-based Atlantic magazine ran a piece in July 2013 titled "In Jordan the Arab Spring Isn't Over" It stated that "Jordanians look north to Syria and southwest to Egypt and are frightened by what they see. Brutal civil wars and street clashes have tempered the desire for rapid change". What the piece fails to convey is that not a single person was killed by the security forces in the hundreds of demonstration, protests and sit-ins held in Jordan over the last three years.

Jordan has survived the toughest of times in the last three years enduring the stresses and strains of the regional upheavals and wars. A number of prominent commentators predicted that Jordan looked vulnerable and ready to be swept away by the Arab Spring Tsunami. More than three years later, Jordan remains a haven of stability and common sense in a mad region.

Despite the influx of more than 700,000 Syrian refugees, rising energy costs and internal unrest instigated by the opportunist Muslim brotherhood, King Abdullah II of Jordan has skilfully managed the turbulence and steered the ship into safe waters. The chaos in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, the violence in Iraq and the turmoil in Libya have all worked to the advantage of Jordan. The toppling of President Morsi of Egypt last summer and the crack-down against the Islamic Brotherhood movement by the authorities have strengthened King Abdullah's hand at home.

The 6.5 million Jordanians have grown sick and tired of the death and destruction in Iraq and Syria. They have taken the view that rocking the boat too violently in Jordan is fraught with danger and unpredictable catastrophic consequences.

Jordanian commentators point out that despite worsening economic conditions Jordanians value the stability and security they enjoy. Regime change is absolutely out of question.

Jordan has avoided a repetition of the Egyptian or Syrian scenarios. The king has overcome popular protests and was able to repulse Muslim Brotherhood pressures. Jordanians are in no mood to take to the streets.

Jordan's main problem is not political reforms or the role of the King. The top priority for Jordanian is the state of the economy. In a region where over 60 percent of the population is under the age of 30, the economic problems are huge. Economic growth slowed down in the last 2-3 years as a result of the global situation.

King Abdullah has always been an ardent advocate of gradual reforms. He has created a number of independent bodies, including the National Centre for Human Rights and the Royal Committee to Enhance National Integrity. He has instructed the security forces to refrain from resorting to violence in dealing with anti-government protests, which began in 2011. Many Jordanians have been convinced that the King is a real reformer and a real guardian of progress and stability in a turbulent region.

Most Jordanians do not support the Islamic factions that rejects reforms and demand an Islamic system of government.

In a series of discussion papers that King Abdullah II launched over the last two years, he expressed his long term vision for building a truly democratic system of government, and establishing parliamentary government.

In June 2013 King Abdullah gave a lengthy interview to Al- Asharq al Awsat the Pan Arab influential daily, the King said:

"I am not for a quick fix and quick cosmetic reforms I am not for media stunts and political gains". "I am for genuine reform that involves all segments of society and that, at one point, will speak for itself when an efficient and a full-fledged parliamentary government emerges".

Addressing parliament on Sunday 3rd November 2013 King Abdullah said his "white revolution" is part of reforms he initiated weeks before the start of the Arab Spring that saw four regional leaders deposed in uprisings. The King promised to press ahead with wide-ranging reforms".

The next steps will be to build real political parties, the king said. He said he would like to see Jordan's 23 small and fractured political parties merge into two liberal and conservative coalitions for the next parliamentary election.

Earlier this year, Abdullah said his reforms will lead to the absolute monarchy taking a step back. He said as parliament takes on more responsibility, future monarchs -- maybe within five years -- will have limited, though still significant responsibilities, mainly preserving their final word in foreign and defence policy.

Abdullah blamed the delays on regional tensions, including the lack of a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement and the civil war in neighbouring Syria. He said the nearly 700,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan "depletes our already limited resources and puts enormous pressure on our infrastructure."

Resolving the Israeli Palestinian conflict remains a top priority for Jordan.