On Sunday, Jordan’s parliament will convene for the first time since the elections on January 23. As it convenes, the post-election political landscape in Jordan is beginning to take shape, and it is interesting to see what will happen in the coming weeks and months.Currently, there are three blocs that are in negotiations to form a coalition that would control 70 out of 150 seats – the Homeland (Watan) Bloc led by Khalil Atiyeh (with 38 MPs) the Islamic Centrist Party (led by Mohammad al-Haj), with 16 MPs have already agreed to form a coalition, and they are negotiating with the Future Bloc to form a coalition that if agreed upon would have a total of 70 of the 150 seats in parliament.
Does this coalition represent a potential new governing alliance in Jordan over the long term? Does it’s potential formation mean that one of its members will be appointed by King Abdullah as the new Prime Minister?
Despite the size of this potential coalition, its leaders do not necessarily seem likely to become Prime Minister. Remember, King Abdullah has said that the next PM is not necessarily going to be an MP – what is different is that this time they would be subject to a vote of confidence in parliament. Rather, the real competition among MPs appears to be for the speakership, and several candidates for the position held a debate regarding how to strengthen the parliament. One of the leaders of this potential coalition, Mohammad al-Haj, who is Secretary General of the Islamic Centrist Party is a candidate for the speakership, as are two former speakers, Saed Hayel Srour and Abdul Karim Dughmi, along with leftist Musfafa Shneikat and Mahmoud Kharabsheh. Kharabsheh served as head of the legal affairs committee when he investigated a bribe that was allegedly taken by the son of a former Prime Minister in 2000.
The candidates have different ideas about the proper role of the Speaker. Srour argued against the speaker being a member of any political bloc. If either Shneikat or al-Haj were elected it would signal that the other model – of a partisan spakership – might be taking hold. Perhaps much depends on King Abdullah’s choice of Prime Minister – if he chooses someone with ties to this coalition (though not necessarily a member – then the speakership becomes less important because of the coalition’s affiliation with the PM. If the PM is more of a nonpartisan or technocratic figure then the speakership becomes the highest-possible partisan position and a political bargaining chip in negotiations over future governments.
All eyes then, are on King Abdullah, and his decision on whom to appoint as Jordan’s next Prime Minister. Although the loyalists remain in power, there have been changes that were made beginning with this parliament, and his actions, as well as those of the MPs in electing their speaker will likely set precedents that will endure long into the future.