Former Jordanian Prime Minister Ahmad Obaidat has unveiled the vision of the new National Front for Reform in a press conference in Amman. Mr. Obaidat set out the plans of the new group, whose members include the Democratic People’s Party (Hashd), the Communist Party, the Popular Unity Party, the Islamic Action Front, the Baathist Progressive Party, the Socialist Party, the Nation and the Movement of the Social Left, as well as a number of professional associations and leading labour figures, the Women’s Union and Youth bodies. The new movement was put together in early April but the announcement was delayed by a number of issues; the launch took place at the Arab Forum in the Jordanian capital.
The text of the reform document reads thus:
In order to ensure the continuation of the constitutional legitimacy of the government in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and to maintain the stability of our country, the dignity of our people and the safety of the national structure; and affirming the sovereignty of the people of Jordan and their right to good governance by elected leaders and a national Department of State that is committed to developing the resources of the country and the wishes of the citizens, with their participation and support under the rule of the law, we present our vision for comprehensive democratic reform as follows:
I. Adopt a national strategy of reform that will put the country onto the democratic path based on the fundamentals of the Constitution and National Charter, to create a civil state of democracy based on freedom, justice and respect for human rights, which constitute “citizenship” with constitutional, legal and ethical dimensions as its core.
II. Conduct constitutional reform on the basis that people are the ultimate source of authority in the state, and set clear rules for comprehensive political reform, to restore balance to the relationship between the three authorities, and establish the principle of separation between them. This will include constitutional guarantees which promote democratic approaches to governance based on the devolution of power and correlation between authority and responsibility, so as to cancel the adjustments made to the Constitution in 1952, whereby it lost its features of democracy and upset the balance of powers. This will eliminate provisions which can no longer justify their existence and modify other provisions in light of the political, economic and social developments which have taken place during the sixty years since the constitution was agreed, so that after its amendment it becomes a valid basis for a parliamentary constitutional monarchy system in a democratic state.
III. We stress the free will of the Jordanian people to choose their representatives according to an electoral system that ensures the presence of an effective legislative power, through a democratic, fair and impartial electoral law which promotes national unity, respects full rights of citizenship for all, harmonizes geographical and population considerations, and adopts a proportional representation system or an open list, whichever is more just and fair, is less negative and easier in application, and conducts elections under the supervision of an independent and neutral national body, over which the President has jurisdiction.
A) Implementing an integrated strategy to fight corruption and curb its momentum in political life and the economic, social and managerial structures of the state, and the adoption of the International Convention of 2003 as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on corruption as a minimum requirement of legislative reform, creating legal and institutional frameworks to address this scourge; to ensure crime detection in corruption cases and the prosecution of those suspected thereof without any partiality.
B) The development of legal and administrative norms and controls to prevent an overlap between public office and commercial and financial activity, and the prevention of mixing public and private money.
C) Activating the role of the Council of Representatives, the organs of official censorship and civil society institutions, to ensure maximum transparency; restoring the confidence of citizens to the values of honour, integrity, hard work and upholding the nation and the common good.
V. Reform of the security establishment in a manner that ensures its commitment to duties established by law to protect the security of the homeland and its citizens, and the abolition of the exceptional powers granted to security officers, or taken by them, ending their interference without any legal basis in the management of elections, in universities, in student, trade and professional unions, in the work of public and private press and media institutions and other civil society organizations where non-legal security interference causes confusion of state institutions and departments, and are an impediment to the democratic development of political life; working to provide legal safeguards to hold members of the security establishment accountable for any human rights or public freedom violations they commit; and thus set the tempo for its work in line with the requirements of a democratic approach to good governance.
VI. Recognition of a vibrant opposition as part of the political structure of the state and society, and an inherent partner in decision-making, and an important factor in political stability. Ensuring the opposition’s right to use the media, communication and political, economic and social platforms, to present programmes to the public and criticise government policies without hindrance.
A) Comprehensive reform of the judicial system to guarantee its unity and independence, and enhance the role of the judiciary in ensuring the rule of law, the preservation of the democratic system and the protection of rights and public freedoms. Put an end to the abuse of judicial appointments by the state, and restore prestige to the judiciary system and respect for its resolutions; provide it with the ability to exercise its duties efficiently and with integrity and impartiality; to entrench the principle of the legitimacy of the state and achieve the principle of legality as a cornerstone for strengthening the rule of law.
B) The abolition of special courts and returning their powers to competent civil courts.
C) Create an independent constitutional court for the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, which can take decisions on problematic constitutional issues referred by the courts, and to adjudicate in disputes and appeals relating to the constitutionality of laws and regulations pertaining to actions by its stakeholders; respond to the political and economic evolution of the Kingdom, so that its role is integrated and its performance is necessarily enhanced with a judicial authority which has full independence, and a legislative authority able to protect the resolutions issued by this Court from predominance by the executive branch.
VIII. Providing constitutional and legal guarantees to protect media freedom and ensure the freedom of information for all. The establishment of a professional information system for the State committed to the democratic path in its policies and programmes, and contributes to the creation of citizens proud of their homeland who cherish its Arab-Islamic heritage and values. It will also contribute to the consolidation of the concept of citizen participation, respect for freedom of expression within the framework of balance between rights and duties, and play an active role in promoting national cohesion and rationalising the functions of institutions.
A) Give radical reconsideration to education policy with the objective of improving its quality and working on linking the curriculum with development programmes and requirements; this to be a priority for the State, the business sector and civil society. Restructure the relationship between education and the social and economic system so that education becomes a cornerstone for the enhancement of the quality of life in Jordanian society.
B) The advancement of national scientific and technical capacities, and integrating activities with the requirements of development for a society of knowledge which will enable Jordan to maximise its scarce natural resources and assist it in achieving a competitive advantage in foreign markets.
X. Correcting the economic approach to reaffirm state ownership of public resources and strategic projects, and the adoption of planning as a key political tool to guide the economy and society, taking into consideration market mechanisms and the participation of the productive private sector in a manner that integrates its activities with the national plan for development without the exploitation of workers and consumers.
XI. Creating an integrated political and legislative environment which plays an active role in the optimal allocation of resources, and policies that achieve social justice in the distribution of income and wealth, through the following:
A) The readjustment of fiscal and taxation policies towards the reduction of disparities between income and wealth in society, and the reduction of class polarisation which threatens political and social stability in the country.
B) Restructuring public expenditure of the State according to the priorities of the country, particularly in support of resources allocated for the maintenance of basic services, notably education and health, housing and public transport, provision of water security and supporting food production, and paying special attention to environmental projects such as stopping desertification, forest protection and expansion of the sewer network.
C) The adoption of a fair policy for determining wages and prices, to protect citizens’ right to a decent living, and the right to access to productive work and fair remuneration, to prevent the exploitation of the labour force, male and female, and guarantees a minimum level of wages to avoid the scourge of inflation and put an end to monopolies.
XII. The level of awareness of our people and the strength of our national fabric is the most effective weapon in the face of internal and external challenges, and it is the first guarantee for the defence of the Arab character of Jordan and to maintain security and stability and its Arab and Islamic identity. Also, there is a clear and present danger from the Zionist state which is a significant challenge, as it targets Jordan just as it has targeted Palestine.
In this context we strongly condemn and reject the concept of the “alternative homeland” for the Palestinians, as we condemn the culture of defeat and calls for fragmentation in all its forms. We uphold Palestinian refugees’ right of return of to their homeland in Palestine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.