Jordan at a Crossroads

On Friday the National Front for Reform rallied in Amman under the title “A Popular Uprising for Reform.” The NFR, which is headed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Obeidat in Amman (which protested in front of the interior ministry without incident) attracted thousands of people and demonstrated that they is real demand for political reform – if the government is willing to accept it. There don’t seem to be many signs that they actually are, despite the fact that even retirees from the GID have called for political reform and condemned corruption.

The presence of security forces at the rally on Friday was heavy, although counter-demonstrations that were scheduled did not end up taking place. Prior to the demonstration, Obeidat met with the Prime Minister and sought a guarantee that the protesters would be protected. The demonstrations were attended by thousands of protesters, with AFP estimating that about 10,000 protesters attended. The protesters changed against the fuel prices, demanded reform, and the resignation of Prime Minister Ensour. Obeidat also called for a boycott of the general election under the current electoral law.

The fact that there is a degree of consensus about reforms is indicated by the position of the Islamic Action Front on the current political crisis. They have called for reconvening the previous parliament and for the government and opposition parties to engage in a dialogue that would produce a reformed electoral law and other measures.

These protests and others like them shows that the demand for reform is strong, and that the government should heed it. But they show little signs of doing so. The question then is why. Where is King Abdullah? Perhaps the answer can be found in the fact that he seems devoted to the affairs of every other country but his own. It is as though he believes that by disappearing from sight he can make people forget that in the end his word is the only one that really counts under the current political system.

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