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Jordan’s Democratic Renaissance

In recent years, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has made remarkable progress toward establishing the basics of a pluralistic, organized political structure that can serve as a model for the region. Since Jordan resumed its commitment to parliamentary politics in 1989, a number of sweeping reforms have been adopted to ensure that the venture is placed on a solid footing. Most notable among these are the reintroduction of political parties to Parliament, the drafting of the National Charter, the expansion of press freedoms and a firm commitment to pluralism and human rights. In the words of King Hussein, Jordan’s commitment to fostering a democratic political culture is an “irreversible option.”

In 1989, political reform began with parliamentary elections that were hailed internationally as among the freest ever held in the Middle East. The new parliament emerged as a political force that exercised full legislative powers. In addition, the formulation of the National Charter established the framework for organized political activity in the country. The Charter, which guarantees the protection of human rights, offers an indigenous model of democratic pluralism based on the only true guarantors of stability: public participation and collective responsibility.

Freedom of the press, one of the cornerstones of democracy, was enhanced with the enactment of new legislation on press and publications. In the area of human rights, the government repealed martial law, which had been enforced in the aftermath of the 1967 War. The government also encouraged the stationing of several international and regional human rights organizations in Jordan, and ratified a number of treaties on human rights.


The National Consultative Council

In April 1978, King Hussein decreed that a National Consultative Council be created to temporarily replace Parliament. Between 1978 and 1984 three councils were formed, consisting of representatives appointed by King Hussein from various sectors of Jordanian society. These councils were not intended to be a substitute for a freely elected parliament, but were a temporary measure in lieu of the fact that one-half of Parliament’s seats remained under Israeli occupation. Also as a result of Israel’s occupation, martial law was imposed throughout the Kingdom.

The last National Consultative Council was dissolved by royal decree in January, 1984. As a compromise measure aimed at reinvigorating the democratic process without cutting the Kingdom’s electoral ties to the West Bank, deputies elected to the 1967 Parliament, known as the Ninth Parliament, were recalled to an extraordinary parliamentary session held in Amman later in 1984. There they voted on new members to replace those who had died since 1967, or were otherwise unable to attend because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The newly constituted legislature accurately reflected the demographic and geographical profile of the 1967 Parliament, and was known as the Tenth Parliament.