Elections of 1989
Implicitly endorsing Jordans drive to liberalize the political process, representatives of Arab political parties gathered in December 1996 in Amman to discuss issues of common interest. In his address to the assembly, His Majesty King Hussein recalls the Arab political elites failure to lead Arab societies toward development and progress. He criticizes their failure to maintain bridges of contact with the popular base, their obsession with security and their neglect of human rights. The king stresses that freedom means that . . . (no) one party can claim an exclusive monopoly on truth and that it is vital to respect pluralism and freedom of choice in order for democracy to fluourish. Speaking directly to the Arab political parties, he advised them to review their progress, programs, plans and methods, to make them compatible with the new phase of our nations history, and to disgard the old and irrelevant slogans which have lost their meaning and become marginal in the new era.
Address to the Meeting of Arab Political Parties
December 16, 1996
(Translated from the original Arabic)
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
May Gods blessings and peace be upon the Arab Hashemite Faithful Prophet.
My Brothers, the representatives of Arab parties,
May Gods peace, and blessings be upon you, and furthermore,
I am extremely happy to extend to you the warmest welcome, in this Arab bastion, which was, and will stay, God willing, a haven for the free and the intellectuals of our nation, and a secure and dignified refuge to whoever among them seeks shelter in this country, that will always be faithful to its Arab identity regardless of the cost, secure in the purity of its principles and the nobility of its objectives, always striving for the freedom of the nation, its unity, and for a better life for its sons. Today you converge on Jordan from all countries of our great nation, to represent all political tendencies in it, and to convene the first conference of Arab political parties. You are all welcome in your country, Jordan, brothers within your family, and honored guests worthy of the greatest hospitality and consideration.
Holding this conference on this blessed land is an indication of the noble feelings that you bear in your righteous and alert conscience towards this country. It manifests your conviction in its true commitment to its nation, and your appreciation of its democratic process, which opens new horizons for freedom, plurality, and respect for human rights. This will permit you, God willing, to discuss the items on your agenda in complete clarity and freedom, that befits your virtuous objectives, and the noble ambitions that you hope to realize, chief among them Arab solidarity and common popular action.
The experience of political parties in all countries of the great Arab nation was subjected to severe tests, and underwent many reversals and much frustration. At times, this caused parties to lose the clarity of their vision, and a large part of their credibility and value, in the eyes of the Arab masses, that had pinned great hopes on these parties and that had seen in them the way for salvation from the suffering caused by the absence of freedom, and the widespread poverty, ignorance, despotism, oppression, and marginalization of the community in favor of the interests of an individual.
It may be high time for the Arab parties, singly or collectively, to review their progress, programs, plans and methods, to make them compatible with the new phase of our nations history. It would be unwise for any of these parties to stay immobile, reiterating the proposals and slogans that they had declared half a century ago or longer, disregarding the events and changes that have taken place in the world during the past numerous decades. These slogans have lost their meaning and become marginal in the new era.
Therefore, there is no alternative but to reread the new phase with attentiveness, objectivity and comprehensiveness, taking into consideration the specificity of the Arab conscience, and the psychological and cultural composition of the peoples of this nation, as well as their ambitions. In light of this reading, and with a clear and piercing vision of the desired future, these parties can synthesize their ethics and morals, formulate their plans and programs, and arrange their pragmatic priorities. This can regain them their credibility within their popular base, and spare them the mistakes of the past. It would save them from losing their way in the fog of romanticism, from plagiarism, and from any form of clientage to an external patron that would direct them to serve his own ends, making them liable to clash with their environment and with others.
Some parties of the national movements succeeded in their early days in mobilizing public opinion around the issue of independence. But later, the political elites were not able to lead Arab societies in the quest for development and progress. They failed to maintain the bridges that linked them with their popular base, as a result of their obsession with security, and their view that they had a right of tutelage over others, the right to confiscate their freedom, and the right to think for them. They forgot that any objectives proposed by any authority in todays world cannot be valued higher than human rights. Instead, such objectives should be derived from human rights, and they should be devoted to serve and further these rights.
Modernity, and keeping apace with our times, does not mean denying our principles or rescinding them. Isolationism, fanaticism and immobility do not, in any way, mean constancy and devotion to a cause, and sacrificing for it. The first condition for commitment is freedom of choice and acceptance of this choice. Freedom requires all to respect the principle of pluralism, and to distance themselves from the confiscation of the freedom of others, or their right to express their convictions and ideas. Freedom means that we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that one party can claim an exclusive monopoly over truth, or to impose its ideology and its will over others, under any pretext.
Every Arab citizen has the right to enjoy freedom. His rights must be respected. He must have the opportunity to participate in shaping his present and his future. He must feel safe for himself, his honor, and his dignity. He also has the right to select the platform through which to express himself, or the group which he feels would express his ambitions and ideas, in the context of responsible freedom, and commitment to the higher national good.
We in Jordan have sought, over the past years, to enhance our democratic process of which we are proud. We are keen to make it an example and a model. We seek to consolidate its foundations, and to open horizons before it. This we do through our total conviction that this is the path that we have selected for ourselves, in freedom and good faith. We believe that it is one of the foundations for this countrys strength, while it is based on the Constitution, and while it derives inspiration from the spirit of the National Charter, which gained the consensus of all political and cultural tendencies in this country. We realized from the beginning that true democracy must be based on the separation between the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities, with each authority observing its limits, and not infringing on the others. We observed the necessity to hold parliamentary elections on time, in accordance with the law, and in a spirit of fairness, honest competition, and freedom of political action on the basis of pluralism that is committed to the principle of responsible national dialogue.
This process of democratization permitted all of our people to participate, through their representatives in the Jordanian Chamber of Deputies, in taking many vital decisions. The most important of these decisions was the our choice to pursue peace within the Arab consensus, and through the peace process that was launched in Madrid. In doing so we were at peace with ourselves, and in harmony with the consensus of the entire Arab nation that opted for peace.
Since the start of this process, and until now, we have been careful to give all support to our Palestinian brothers and their sole legitimate representative, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and their leadership which was elected subsequently, in their quest and struggle to regain their rights and to establish their state on their national soil. We shall continue to support them in every way we can, until they achieve all their ambitions, and until the peace process realizes its objectives in all streams, to achieve a comprehensive, permanent, and just peace in the region. We do this through our commitment to the cause of our Arab nation, our duty towards our Palestinian brothers, and the right of the peoples of this region, and their future generations, to a life in security, stability, and dignity.
Since its creation and until the present day, this country has been at the vanguard of its brothers in defending the cause of its nation, its rights, and its unity. In doing so, Jordan has had to bear a burden far greater than its ability. It made immense sacrifices willingly, and in good faith. It had to bear the consequences of wars that were imposed upon it. We do not say this to count favors, for we believe that this was part of our duty towards our nation and its future generations. We recall it because it is part of our history, and a fact that we invoke against anyone that tries to deny this countrys role and its sacrifices. We recall it as a response to the campaigns of slander, discredit, and confusion.
We have always called for unity. We have always been messengers of righteousness and reform. We call on our Arab brothers to shun their disputes, and to resolve them through dialogue, without rigidity, without the use of force, without the interference of any side whatsoever in the internal affairs of any Arab country. We have always been keen to avoid the situation where differences of opinion or interpretation, or discord between Arab leaderships, may extend themselves to the peoples. We believe that these differences are temporary, and will vanish one of these days.
Your coming together in this conference, brothers, is a true expression of your concern to overcome the official barriers against common Arab action, by activating this action on the popular level. It is an embodiment of the aspirations of the people, in all parts of the great Arab nation, for unity, solidarity, and complementarity, for the good of this nation and its future generations. It is a declaration that you, and those whom you represent, reject all forms of discord that occur from time to time on the official level.
It is not a coincidence that this conference should take place on this Arab soil, that welcomed the vanguard of the Great Arab Revolt, led by my revolutionary grandfather, Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, to unify the nation, liberate it, and gain its independence. That revolt opened the door for the political parties that have been launched in the Arab world since the second decade of this century. The principles and sublime objectives of the Great Arab Revolt were the basic tenets and rallying cry of some of these parties. As a result, we have witnessed the noblest and most sublime form of unity, in which the Jordanian and Palestinian people merged together in a unity that forged them into one harmonious, tolerant, and cohesive family, on this blessed land.
Moreover, brothers, there is no alternative to democracy in our societies, at this crucial moment in our history. The only alternative is frustration, oppression, and chaos, which would lead to civil wars in which all are losers. Honesty requires us to put the fear of God in our hearts, and to give people their rights, to render unto each his due, and to manage their affairs in justice and equality, in observance of Gods command: God orders you to render unto each his due, and if you rule over the people, to rule justly.
I salute your noble Arab spirit, and I appreciate your concern for common Arab action. I pray to Almighty God to grant us all success in our work for the good of the nation, and I reiterate my welcome to you, wishing you a good stay among us.
May Gods peace and blessings be upon you.
Address to the Meeting of Arab Political Parties
December 16, 1996