Roughly two years into ongoing uprisings and reform movements in the Middle East, Jordan remains in the bloc of countries whose civil society has seen little fundamental change. Jordanian citizens have held protests and continually called for constitutional reforms, stopping short of demanding regime change. On January 23, 2013, Jordan held its first parliamentary elections since new election laws were passed in June.
Today, Reuters is reporting that H.M. King Abdullah II is calling for further changes in order to create a more representative parliament. This statement was spurred by a boycott of last month’s parliamentary elections by Islamist parties in Jordan. The boycott was motivated by a widely held grievance among Islamists, Palestinians, and minority groups, that under current laws, elections are skewed against urban areas where these groups hold most of their support. Rural Jordan is home to a larger portion of the kingdom’s bedouin Jordanians, which favor the regime.
This past week in Amman, the independent media organization, 7iber.com held another iteration of their #hashtagdebates series. The town hall-like forum seeks to bring together Jordanian citizens with political and social leaders to foster dialogue, hopefully leading to a more open society, and in their own words, give power to “craft and share their own narratives.” This gathering brought local citizens together to with former Jordanian Prime Minister and current President of the Senate, Taher Al Masri.
Jordan’s lukewarm “Arab Spring”, as many would call it, has been frustrating for the kingdoms citizens, hanging on the brink of any real reform. Up to this point, Jordan has not reached an impasse or breaking point in their quiet, determined struggle of self-determination. Surveying the uprisings around them, especially Syria to the north, Jordanians know that violent upheaval is something their country and the region cannot afford. Seeing open dialogue grow in the form of events like the #hashtagdebates is refreshing and signals the planting of powerful seeds of change. Time will tell when the mustard seeds of true democracy explode into the change and political reform that Jordanians seek in their country.
*Arabic tweets are in the process of being translated. Keep checking back for a full English translation in the next several days.