Calls for anti-government demonstrations held in Amman failed to continue for longer than one day, after one protestor was killed. Most demonstrators were calling for the reform of the regime, with some extreme Islamists calling for regime change. The protests led to the resignation of 16 opposition leaders from the National Dialogue Committee, formed by the King to address the demands of the opposition. However, those who resigned agreed to rejoin the Committee and resume dialogue few days later, in a sign that dialogue is still on the table.
Meanwhile, a nation-wide strike by teachers was averted after the Higher Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution ruled in favour of establishing a Teachers Union, revoking a 1994 decision that considered such an organisation unconstitutional.
March 25-31, 2011
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The political situation in Jordan is highly complex and differs from other countries in the region. There are no major ethnic or religious divisions in the country, but Jordanians are often classified as coming from an East Bank or West Bank (Palestinian origin). East Bankers tend to belong to one of the large tribes. The Royal Family is seen as a balance between the various Jordanians, and almost all Jordanians prefer to have the Royal Family remain in power. The Royal Family is highly popular among the various parts of society. There is also a reasonable degree of political freedom in the country, larger than most other countries in the region, but by no means comparable to Western standards. However, rampant corruption in recent years, coupled by increasing poverty has led to an increasing level of frustration.
The steps taken by the regime appear to have helped dissipate some of the potential unrest. The opposition, led by the popular Islamic Action Front (part of the Muslim Brotherhood), will be reluctant to over-demonstrate as they do not wish to undermine the regime’s stability. The calls that they have been issuing were for regime reform, rather than regime change as seen in other regional states. The only side that has called for regime change are the fringe and small Hizul Tahrir, but they have been calling for regime change across the world for decades. They have, however, attempted to jump on the bandwagon of the Arab Spring and called for demonstrations in Jordan in an attempt to imply that there are calls for regime change.
The acceptance by the Higher Council (de facto Constitutional Court) for the creation of a teachers’ union has averted a potentially devastating national strike of teachers. Trade unions are often the main platforms the opposition uses to express opinions.
The complex balance and symbiotic relationship between the various Jordanians appear to have resulted in limiting the opposition for the time-being, with calls for mass demonstrations not materializing. The fact that there were very few casualties in contrast with other countries in the region who have witnessed civil unrest also helps to avoid an escalation. It is expected, however that the King will undertake rapid reform steps to mitigate the risk of any further unrest, and the longer this takes to materialize, the most unstable the situation becomes. The situation in the short-term, however, appears to have largely stabilized, even though demonstrations will likely continue.
In summary, the response of the government and the opposition has so far avoided an escalation of risk, particularly in comparison to the risk facing other countries in the region. The opposition agreeing to rejoin the National Dialogue Committee is a positive step.
The situation may become complicated should further demonstrations turn violent. This has so far been averted, but with the unpredictability of events in the region, the longer any reforms undertaken by the government take, the most unpredictable the situation.