In an interview for the Middle Eastern Studies Journal, former Jordanian Prime Minister, Ahmad Obeidat, has stated that the movement of political and social development being witnessed in some Arab countries would spread across the region and that the change would affect “the whole Arab world.” He added that “there is a significant common denominator which is corruption and tyranny and which has flourished in the Arab World; not only in systems of governance, but in sections of society that profit from it.” He explained that “the length of the period of corruption practiced by some regimes allows for more beneficiaries to gain from this corruption.”
Regarding reform in Jordan, Obaidat asserted that “the regional role of Jordan in the future depends on its ability to carry out the desired reform … and on the system’s ability to unite all classes and political factions in the society; to absorb the new and emerging youthful powers in the nation, and to get all people united for the same purpose”.
Obaidat was pessimistic about the seriousness of officials to undertake reform in Jordan, and said: “Forgive me if I am now more inclined to being pessimistic than optimistic regarding the situation of Jordan and given that my personal conviction is that the issue of reform in Jordan can be achieved in a less complex and an easier way than has been done in any other Arab country” and that, “What has been done so far does not convince me that there is indeed a crucial decision regarding the need for deep and comprehensive democratic reform in the country.” He went on to add; “there are forces that are exerting a reverse pull within Jordanian society; forces that benefit from the continuation of the situation as it is for reasons I do not want to discuss now”.
Obaidat confirmed that the Jordanian people reject corruption in all its forms, “because it began to pay a high price for this corruption at the expense of its interest and its future generations.”
He expressed surprise that the “official reaction is so far still insufficient to understand the movement of people and changes that are taking place in the street, and that it tries to address it through out-dated methods.” He added: “The problem from my point of view is the continued existence of politicians and political institutions with mentalities that deal with developments at home and abroad as if they were semi-movements or as if they were mere wishes – nothing more and nothing less … this is as a result of the mentality that still controls the State”.
Obaidat believes that “Neither this government nor any government similar to it is able to carry out reform, because reform needs someone to really believe in it; this is easy to discern in a small country such as Jordan and in a community where everyone knows each other. Really it is the people who hold the key to the whole world. This people have become the real epicentre; they have become mature enough given all that is happening around them. Hence they are able to understand their interests and appreciate all genuine steps toward reform.” Obaidat concluded that “there is an agenda for decision-makers or the ruling class that is a totally different from the agenda that the people believe in.”
Obaidat added: “I don’t think that anyone is arguing the case for the parliament as a legislative authority to be equal and eligible for executive and judicial power … and thus reflect the real interests of the Jordanian people”. Similarly, “no one disputes the fact that corruption has destroyed everything and destroyed the development gains achieved over the past four decades (…) No one disputes that we need to reform the country’s economy, which has reached rock bottom.”
When asked about the nature of the political reforms demanded in Jordan, Obaidat said, “I believe that despite the differences of the popular slogans they all focus on reform of the system. That reform, as I understand it, must include the constitution, and that is not an innovation”. He added, “this does not reflect an uprising against the rule of law; on the contrary, I believe this protects legitimacy and stability and the proof of this is that the King remains the symbol of the unity of the nation, the unity of citizenship and unity of the people. He is the repository of the legitimacy. Permit me to say, he is the defender and guardian of the constitution; and what is wrong with this? There is something that goes with power and responsibility. Whoever wants to exercise power must accept responsibility and must be accountable”.
Obaidat’s vision is one of comprehensive reform. “It must address the constitution as well as the way the State is governed; and it must likewise tackle the three branches that form the bases of the system of governance: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. This reform must also encompass the economy and the media, as well as the security agenda”.
Ahmad Obaidat is a former prime minister of Jordan. This article was translated from the Arabic which appeared in http://www.khaberni.com/page.asp?ThisID=3
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.