Jordanian King dissolves national parliament ahead of November elections

National elections in Jordan are scheduled to held on November 10 in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a rapidly deteriorating economic situation in the country

September 28, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
jordan's parliament dissolved
Jordan's parliament. (Photo: AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

On September 27, Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah issued a royal edict to dissolve the country’s parliament in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country. The election commission had announced in July this year plans for holding the elections on November 10. Following the parliament’s dissolution, the Jordanian government is now constitutionally obliged to resign within one week. It will continue in caretaker capacity until a new government is elected.

The outgoing parliament consists of 130 legislators, most of them from a pre-existing deeply entrenched ruling elite class made up of pro-monarchy and pro-government officials, influential businessmen, and former high ranking officials from the military and intelligence establishment. The government, however, does not exercise much actual power as most of the political and administrative authority is enjoyed by the king, as per the Jordanian constitution. The government thus acts like a rubber stamp, providing political and electoral legitimacy to the king.

The ruling establishment in Jordan, including both the monarchy and the government, has failed to address many of the issues facing the people, especially around the economy. This has led to social unrest and widespread uncertainty about the future. These problems have been aggravated by the pandemic situation.

In an attempt to address some of these issues, the king appointed a new prime minister in 2018. However, since then, the economic situation has only worsened, with the national economy shrinking by 6% in 2020. The unemployment rate reached 19.3% in the beginning of this year. 

The new prime minister’s appointment was followed by violent government suppression of teachers’ protests and a massive crackdown against the country’s largest teachers’ union. Teachers held massive protests from September 2019 against the government’s failure to keep up its promises of salary hikes and other work-related benefits. The government has also used the protests as an excuse to curtail civil and political liberties of citizens. Gag orders were issued to the media forbidding them from covering news or protests which are critical of the government and the monarchy, or portray those in power in a negative light.

The government has additionally persecuted the most powerful opposition force, the Muslim Brotherhood. Recently, the country’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled in favor of the dissolution of Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. The ruling establishment has also tried to label several other independent and mass political opposition groups and protest movements as pro-Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated to it, in order to discredit them and undermine their political legitimacy and popularity.