Weeks after their election to the 17th Parliament, newly-elected Jordanian MPs have been showing immaturity in politics, failing to play a decisive role in forming the Kingdom’s first parliamentary government in decades, and thus leaving the door open for more public criticism.
It is no doubt that this failure will result in keeping the long-held stereotypical image that Jordanians have about deputies as incompetent individuals, mainly concerned in serving their personal agendas.
Likewise, the opposition’s long-favored perception of the election law as badly-worded and unpromising will also remain unchanged.
Right after King Abdullah’s speech at the inauguration of the parliament’s non-ordinary session, deputies have been engaged for more than two weeks in marathon consultations with the Palace to name the next prime minister who will lead the Kingdom’s first parliamentary government since the 1950s.
The King’s Speech
The discussions have yielded no tangible results so far, except for an absurd scene of hesitant MPs unable to make decisions and fragmented parliamentary blocs that are quickly formed and easily dismantled.
In his speech from the throne at the opening of the first session of Jordan’s first post-Arab Spring parliament, the king entrusted MPs with unprecedented political powers in addition to their legislative ones, giving them the “go-ahead” to work freely and confidently during their four-year term under no fears of their house being dissolved.
Addressing Lower House members, the king said: “After we have held parliamentary elections in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with international best practices, we call for a new approach.
“We will start as part of this new approach with consultations over the government’s formation with the Lower House and parliamentary blocs as they take shape, in order to reach consensus that leads to the designation of a prime minister, who, in turn, will enter into consultations with the parliamentary blocs and other political forces as he selects his ministerial team.”
Despite the go-ahead from the king and the fact that they were elected through a process free of the suspicions that plagued previous parliaments, Jordanian MPs have been unable to present a daring and fully-fledged show of political skill so far, failing to meet the expectations of the reform-starved Jordanians.
The closed-door meetings Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh held with deputies have not yet yielded a consensus over the name of the political figure who will lead the parliamentary government, with parliamentary blocs and individual MPs still on a shaky ground, moving inward and backward in noticeable uncertainty, chaos, skepticism, indecisiveness and absurdity.
Although their consultations with Tarawneh have been carried out in complete confidentiality — despite their being representatives of the people — leaks and shy remarks by some MPs reveal that the 149 legislators have not yet agreed on a certain figure to form the government — “indeed if that is their aim”.
MPs’ consultations with Tarawneh have been kept confidential because, according to one of them, they have nothing to say over the issue or they are afraid to say what they have agreed on or seek to hide their disputes.
Rejoiced with being lawmakers in a parliament with 27 seats elected on proportional lists and empowered by the King’s directives, MPs began their consultations with Tarawneh, offering certain premiership qualities they said in the beginning were “irreversible”. In the second round of consultations, such a vowed determination has decayed.
Members of the Lower House’s largest blocs have first demanded that the next prime minister be one of them or, if not, at least half of his ministers be from the chamber but, because of some personal agendas and a lack of harmony among parliamentary coalitions, such proposals have quickly faded away.
With no unified consensus reached among all MPs on who will form the next government, three of the Lower House’s major blocs have suggested three names each but no one of the proposed figures remained a strong candidate mainly because deputies’ negotiations on the prime minister and the parliamentary government have been based entirely on personal agendas more than a unified politicl vision.
Theater of the absurd
This scene of uncertainty and fragmentation has to do also with the nature and make-up of the parliamentary blocs whose formation and reformation is itself another “theater of the absurd”.
Some MPs of considerable political and partisan clout have called for installing a technocratic government, losing hope on the possibility of their colleagues reaching a consensus over who should be the next premier and how to form a parliamentary government.
Deputies’ indecisiveness and reluctance have to do also with popularity concerns.
It is no doubt that most deputies, especially those elected for the first time, are preoccupied with the notoriety of Jordan’s consecutive Lower Houses. The waning popularity of MPs have always lead to early dissolutions of the Lower House; therefore, current MPs are more concerned with improving their public image and avoiding any decisions that could increase people’s anger at and frustration with the legislative body.
At the heart of popularity concerns is seemingly the parliamentary government dilemma. MPs have been disinclined and, at times afraid, to name and fight for a certain figure to lead the next government, preferring to remain detached from the whole issue to shield themselves from public criticism.
For deputies, going back to Jordan’s conventional method of forming governments — a prime minister appointed by the king upon recommendations from his advisors — is the best way to avoid the people’s scorn.
MPs believe that this detachment helps them act with more confidence, criticizing a prime minister and a Cabinet they did not choose, but even such an attitude would not be that helpful in polishing their public image as they would probably be and have already become perceived as weak decision makers who are wasting a historic moment brought on by the Arab Spring.
In psychology, such behaviors are referred to as “projection” and “escape-mechanism”.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2