King touts it as a “milestone” in reforms he initiated two years ago to forestall large-scale Arab Spring unrest
Jordan’s king inaugurated the country’s newly elected parliament Sunday with a pledge to press ahead with democratisation, but said he would help choose the next Prime Minister despite the choice having been formally given to the legislature.
Abdullah II has touted the January 23 election as a “milestone” in reforms he initiated two years ago to forestall large-scale Arab Spring unrest like that which toppled four of his peers since 2010. He recently suggested the new legislature will have more powers in running the affairs of the state and monitoring the Cabinet in the future as the monarchy takes a step back, giving the people a wider say in politics. It is supposed to choose the Prime Minister, previously appointed by the monarch.
But the January 23 polls were boycotted by the best organised opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and yielded a body dominated by inexperienced independents.
In his speech to lawmakers, King Abdullah said Jordan was going through a “decisive transitional period,” which will start with lawmakers electing a Prime Minister under palace supervision, at least until fragmented and nascent political parties mature and able to compete on ideological basis in future elections.
“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,” King Abdullah said.
A government official said that the King wanted to avoid “political chaos” as novice politicians take key decisions. The Brotherhood had in fact demanded a change to the election law, which they say in its current form favours locally based independents over ideological blocs.
The King said he would revisit the election law. “The elections were held under a new election law that was not ideal, although it earned as much consensus as was possible,” he said. But the next elections are four years from now, and it is unclear how much this will address a wave of protests that, although small and peaceful compared to others in the region, are an opposition movement’s strongest show of force in Jordan in decades.
King Abdullah dissolved the previous legislature halfway through its four-year term last year amid complaints that its predominantly conservative tribal lawmakers were too docile. Following the elections, the last royal-appointed Prime Minister, Abdullah Ensour, resigned. But the King asked him to stay on until a new Prime Minister is elected. Deputies said consultation over the picking a Premier would start this week.
King Abdullah delivered his speech to a joint meeting of the 150-member Chamber of Deputies and the 75-member royally-appointed Senate Beforehand, the king participated in a lavish military ceremony outside the domed Parliament chamber in the heart of Amman. King Abdullah, who also holds the title of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, inspected an honour guard as 21 guns boomed in a traditional salute.