Jordan’s King Abdullah yesterday issued a royal decree to dissolve the country’s parliament, triggering a parliamentary election which is likely to be held in the coming weeks.
The apparently unexpected decision comes against a backdrop of rising tensions over long-delayed reforms. The king and his supporters point to a series of constitutional changes which have bolstered the power of the legislature and the creation of a new electoral commission as signs of progress. Yet opponents appear unsatisfied and are demanding quicker, more drastic changes, most notably a system where the Prime Minister is elected, rather than appointed and dismissed by the king.
The dissolution of parliament also comes on the eve of a mass protest in Amman scheduled by Islamist opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. A counter-demonstration planned by the king’s supporters was cancelled yesterday, due to fears of a potentially violent confrontation between the two groups.
Some opposition figures have reportedly vowed to boycott the upcoming elections, in protest at the slow pace of change. The deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is quoted in the Guardian saying, “We are talking about a new phase after 20 months of continued popular protests and unwillingness to listen to our demands for reform… We are calling for real reforms that restore power to Jordanian people.”
Jordan has experienced relatively little political upheaval since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. However, the country is a complex ethnic mix with the ruling Hashemite administration often criticised for marginalising Jordanians of Palestinian origin, believed to be more than half the total population. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, and Israel considers Jordanian stability an important strategic interest, and an important factor in securing any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.