We beat ourselves up two months ago when we asked ourselves how the Armenians could oust their Prime Minister, Serzh Sargsyan, after just 11 days of continuous demonstrations, while the Arabs failed to do so in years. Today, Jordan has the right to be proud and Jordanians have the right to be congratulated. They eliminated a law raising the price of fuel and electricity and they overthrew the government and its prime minister in five days. This may be a world record of how long it took a nation to bring down their country’s government and overturn laws that rely on the citizens’ money to resolve their economic and administrative problems. In order for us to stop beating ourselves up, we must remember a set of lessons taught to us by the Jordanians.
Peaceful change is possible in the Arab world. Perhaps the experiences of the Arabs in Syria, Yemen and Libya have made them incapable of being aware of their inherent cards of change, far from scenes of war, blood and displacement. They have even forgotten the model of change in Tunisia, which still stands today. However, Jordan has reminded everyone that peaceful change is still possible, despite all the frustrations and disappointments we experienced, which have made us doubt the possibility of change and made us doubt the feasibility of the Arab Spring project.
The Jordanian experience has refuted the “tyrannical logic” manifested in the saying, “Syria or me”, i.e. “you must accept my oppressive regime or what happened to Syria will happen to you”. Today, Jordan replied, “Neither you, nor Syria, but us”. The people did not carry arms nor did the state respond with a Jordanian Hamza Al-Khateeb. Both sides exercised the utmost discipline, the government fell, and not a single shot was fired.
The role of political parties has declined in leadership and change. The protesters came from all walks of life in Jordan and they chanted the slogans “we are broke” and “strike!”. None of the political parties hijacked the popular movement and all of the slogans were united and focused on the national concern of combatting corruption and rejecting the IMF’s policies demanding a rise in prices. One of the signs held during the protests read “The World Bank does not rule us”. Therefore, the political parties must be guided by the pulse of the street when directing its compass for political work. They must steer away from fancy political programmes and narrow-minded sectarian partisan views.
Do you remember the Tunisian General Labour Union and its role in leading the political transformation in Tunisia? Jordan’s unions mimicked their counterparts in Tunisia and were at the forefront of the popular protests and leadership in Amman. The unions rallied, organised, led, and negotiated, setting an example of steadfastness and systematic action in the last few days. The secret of its success is its representation of citizens’ interests, rights and concerns, not just their slogans, as political parties do. Unions devote most of their work to solving the problems and challenges faced by their members, not to sell them the political illusion as the parties do. The Arab parties, not only in Jordan but also in many Arab countries, failed when the spontaneous popular Arab Spring broke out in 2011, and then the parties contributed to their decline when they adopted it and its leaders. Have unions begun to replace political parties in leadership and change? Are we in the process of developing an Arab model of action for change, where union work is the core?
One of the activists in the popular Jordanian movement tweeted: “Whoever was protesting against Mulki, Mulki is gone, and whoever protested against the policies of poverty and starvation, we will see you tonight.” The popular movement demonstrated great responsibility in determining goals and strategies. They demonstrated that the ultimate goal is linked to changing the state policies and not the people who implement them. Therefore, it was necessary to engage in real dialogue with the protestors in order to pinpoint the form of change desired. This ensures that the Jordanian experience will move on to advanced levels of transparent and responsible collective work aiming to preserve sustainable stability and social peace.
It is important to reiterate that the social responsibility demonstrated by the Jordanian protesters must be aware of the magnitude of the regional and international challenges and pressures facing their country, specifically the pressures aimed at engaging it in the ominous “Deal of the Century”. The Jordanian leadership was clear from day one on its position regarding this deal and it has defied the pressures it is facing. Therefore, the social responsibility must be aware from the regional and international investments that will inevitably invest in the crisis to obtain what it was unable to in the past.
Finally, Jordanians have the right to celebrate this model, and the Arabs have the right to go a little easy on themselves and to take a break, albeit a short one, from beating themselves up. Overthrowing governments and peaceful change does not only occur in Armenia and Ukraine, but also in Jordan and Tunisia. Anyone who had any doubt that change was coming in the Arab world, despite the darkness of the scene in Syria, Yemen and Libya, should think again.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 6 June 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.