During the past two months I have been a frustrated observer of the political reform fiasco in Jordan. I have written my daily articles in Addustour, with little conviction that they are meaningful at all and continued to feel depressed with the quality (or lack of it) of political debates in the country. I have not even attempted to write a blog post here, consumed by my feelings of frustration but was highly motivated and encouraged by the policy brief written by the former deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Marwan Mouasher and published by the Carnige Endowement, in which Mouasher is the current Vice Prident for Study.
What makes Mouasher’s account highly important is a two-dimensional fact. The first dimension is that Mouasher has seen it all. Acting as a prominant member of government for more than 10 years he has all the information on the inner circle of decision making in Jordan. The second fact is that Mouasher is an uncompromising, uncorrubtable genuine reformer. He is one of the rare examples of Jordanians who truely belive in liberal values of human rights, pluralism and democratization. To compare with, I would add people like Taher Masri, Ahmad Obeidat, Abdel Kareem Kabarity, Leila Sharaf, Mustapha Hamarneh and Ali Mahafzah on the same level.
Mouasher shows a very smart choice for the title of his policy brief: “A decade of struggling reform efforts in Jordan: The resilience of the rentire system”. There are 3 major keywords here:
1- The word ‘decade” reflects the fact that reform in Jordan was not born after the Tunisian revolution but was put on the public agenda since a decade but was eroded by many factors explained in the paper. Now the regional and internal circumstances do not allow for any further delay.
2- The word ‘struggle” implies the true nature of reform efforts ferociously chalenged by the traditional elite that was protecting its privilages rather than moving the entire Jordanian state and society forward.
3-The word “rentire” system explains excatly the major obstacle for reform in the country. It is not only the traditional elites who are protecting their privilages but also a major part of the Jordanian society that has enjoyed the rentire system and is afraid of any changes. This explains the fact that a majority of the new movements in Jordan (social left, retired militarymen, the bigotry-driven group of 36 and others) are nostalgic to the rentire system and consider reform to be simply a return back to the age of the government acting as the father, mother and employer of Jordanians.
Mouasher makes many clever notes in the policy brief, three of them are worth highlighting:
1- The intelligence service has played a highly influential role in preventing reform.
2- The traditional elite were very content with overlooking the King’s directives for reform and manipulating them, even ready to stand against the monarchy if it pursues reform more vigorously.
3- Either lead a reform process from above in a gradual, orderly and serious way or watch it take place in the streets below with uncontrolled consequences.
In the past three months we have seen political figures in the public authorities or opposition in Jordan trading places from being the most avid anti-reformers to providing lip service for reform, expecting that the Jordanian public is stupid enough to belive such empty rhetoric. On the other hand Mouasher has always been a true reformer and someone who we should carefully listen to. It is now up to the other true reformers to speak out and not leave the platform for opportunists, publicity-seekers and transformers who will inhibit reform or hijacki it for their own objectives.