A lot has been said about Jordan these days. Many have expected disturbances in the country after increasing fuel prices few weeks ago. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s insistence to exploit the increased prices as much as it could, the incident just passed by.
Today as the Jordanian elections’ day draw near, on Jan. 23, it has never been more beneficial to confirm that the situation in the kingdom remains critical because the economic crisis the country is suffering from is deep. The crisis itself has several reasons. Jordan lacks natural resources, and there are also local as well as foreign parties working to weaken the kingdom’s immunity. These parties, among them Israel, still think that Jordan is up for grabs and that through foreign pressures they can achieve that which they have not achieved through domestic disturbances.
Elections seem to be a turning point toward overcoming the current critical economic situation. This comes after overcoming a phase in which the situation was really dangerous because some domestic and foreign parties succeeded in mobilizing the public and bringing in violence. These parties did everything possible to drive the Jordanian authorities to resort to suppression.
Luckily there is awareness in the kingdom that there are means other than repression and bloodshed to confront the situation. The Jordanian authorities resorted to “soft power” in order to contain the economic crisis whilst placing the Jordanians on the path of general political reform.
In clearer words, the aim of these elections lies in enabling the Jordanians to be partners in bearing responsibility. This includes working to overcome the economic crisis and at the same time look for common ground that provides rules for a healthy political life firstly based on the peaceful transition of power through polls.
Elections seem a step in encouraging the Jordanians to participate in confronting the “dark powers” raising fake promising banners and aiming to eliminate any hope in developing Jordan. These parties, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, target the political process and the reforms launched more than two years ago by King Abdullah II’s initiative. These parties boycotting the elections think that the disturbances Jordan witnessed should have served the aim of changing the regime and organizing elections based on a law specifically designed for the Brotherhood to reach authority. Instead, the Jordanian authorities insisted to adopt a law that suits all the Jordanian people and not only suits a certain group that aims to seize power any way possible.
It is clear that the Jordanians have responded to the new law. If they had not, the number of those registered in checklists would not have reached more than two million. This was the most eloquent response for those calling to boycott the elections and voicing suspicions in the electoral law and its usefulness. It is the “soft power” which once again succeeded in Jordan. This “soft power” contained the protesters who attempted to cause clashes implying a bloody image. No one was killed although hundreds of protests took place across the kingdom and many made efforts to provoke security forces by going as far as insulting the king himself.
Soft power effect
The “soft power” led to elections. Again, one can say that Abdullah II’s bet on the Jordanians was right.
Now, days before the elections, the king tells the Jordanians what to expect after the elections. He frankly told them that there was a problem in the Jordanians dissociating themselves from political parties. Therefore, there is a problem which religious parties, similar to the Brotherhood, benefit from. These parties, which practice what the king called “religious authoritarianism,” do not believe in the rights of women, Christian and non-Christian minorities. In the end, “religious authoritarianism” does not believe in political diversity or peaceful transition of power. Polls to them are no more than a path toward reaching power in order to cling to it.
From now on, it seems important for Jordan to focus on the establishment of political parties that are far from political extremism and that do not use religion to reach authority and hold on to it for the sake of fulfilling a lust they have longed for.
What we are witnessing in Jordan today is an attempt, through “soft power,” to get the citizens used to bearing responsibilities without being influenced by fake mottos. Jordan has maintained civil peace and managed to confront some of the aspects of the serious economic crisis through this “soft power.” It was also possible through “soft power” to convince Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood that it has an interest in dealing with Jordan based on international law regarding the issue of gas coming from Sinai. “Soft power” also made it possible to open new communication channels with Iraq and convince the government there that bilateral relations are a mutual interest and that it falls within Iraqi interests to have oil pipelines through Jordanian territories. It was thanks to this power that Jordan managed to limit the negative repercussions resulting from the influx of thousands of Syrian refugees to Jordan. Confronting Syrian and Iranian pressures aiming to divert attention from Syrian events was also possible through “soft power.”
The Jordanian elections were a challenge the king insisted to go through. What comes after the elections? Will the elections lead to building a developed political life where confrontation is between political and modern economic agendas and not among outbidding, slogans, escalated rhetoric and useless Byzantine quarrel?
Whatever happens, a reference keen on implementing the constitution to keep Jordan safe remains. It is a reference that knows that the era’s language is called “soft power” which led to elections and contributed to dealing reasonably with the transitional phase the region, including Jordan, is going through!
This article first appeared in Arabic original on al-Rai on Jan. 16.
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including AlMustaqbal and Rosa ElYoussef.