Tunisia's domino effect impossible in Jordan: analysts

14:39, February 04, 2011      

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Despite the tough mission facing Jordan's newly-appointed government, some political analysts ruled out the possibility for the Arab kingdom to be caught up in a so- called domino effect following the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt.

"Jordan is part of the region and we cannot isolate it from the unrest around," political analyst Mohammad Au Rumman told Xinhua, while stressing that "the Arab regimes were different in dealing with the growing number of frustrated demonstrators in the streets. "

In the wake of Tunisia's popular protests, which toppled the 23- year regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians took to the streets in large numbers, demanding President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Similar incidents also happened in countries such as Yemen, where days of demonstrations forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stop seeking another term in office.

Grievances in Jordan have grown over the past years over soaring food and fuel prices and low salaries. Over the past month, thousands of Jordanians took to the streets, demanding the government be sacked and calling for political and economic reforms.

Praising the sacking of former Prime Minister Samir Rifai's cabinet by Jordan's King Abdullah II days ago as a "clever and timely" step considering the growing demonstrations across Jordan, the analysts said the new government of Prime Minister Designate Marouf Bakhit should primarily focus on combating corruption, which they said is "provocative to all Jordanians."

According to the analysts, Bakhit and his team should speed up dialogue with all the segments in the society to come up with a " modern, civilized" election law which increases public participation in the political life and decision-making process.

In terms of the economic policy reform, the new government may be limited by the "rocketing public debt and high budget deficit," they said.

"Some regimes rejected calls for change by their people who took to the streets, others tried to contain the masses of people demonstrating, but Jordan listened to the public, who mainly demanded a government change," Abu Rumman said.

"In Jordan, the regime was wise and flexible as it has always been. The regime was fast to take action and His Majesty King Abdullah II sacked Rifai and instructed the new prime minister to embark on a nationwide dialogue with all parties and segments of the society to start genuine economic and political reforms," Abu Rumman added.

"It is not likely to witness a domino effect in Jordan. The response of the regime was smart. Demonstrations were allowed and facilitated and there is a consensus among all on the legitimacy of the regime. What is suggested nowadays is democracy in light of a monarchy system," Abu Rumman said.

Oraib Rintawi, head of Al Quds Center for Political Studies, agreed that the Jordanian regime is somehow different from its neighbors. "In Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, there is poverty and unemployment and corruption, but the Jordanian regime is more flexible in addressing these issues and is capable of adapting with the circumstances," Rintawi told Xinhua.

"In addition, the situation in Jordan is controllable and the demos are peaceful," said Rintawi.

Acknowledging that Bakhit's government faces "grand challenges, " the analysts said the new government should seek to entrench democracy and start a "serious" dialogue to draw up a new election law.

"If the new government does not take the opposition and its views into account, we will go back to square as the new prime minister was not welcomed by all," Rintawi said.

"The thousands of Jordanians who took to the streets over the past few weeks did not only call for sacking Rifai, they also called for political reforms, the dissolution of the lower house and holding early elections and these are legitimate demands that if not addressed will encourage demonstrations," Rintawi said.

Abu Rumman agreed, saying "Bakhit is a controversial figure, therefore, there should be serious steps to be taken. I think this start by a new election law, dissolving the lower house and holding early elections in line with the new law."

The opposition in Jordan seems to be divided after the sacking of Rifai.

"We will continue our demonstrations and sit-ins until all our objectives are realized," Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) told Xinhua. The IAF wants an elected government in Jordan and "major" socio-economic and political reforms.

Other opposition parties said they will stop their demonstrations.

The analysts said it is still early to judge the performance of the new government and they are not "very optimistic" for the near future.

"Based on history of Jordanian governments, I am not optimistic. I hope that this time the government will be more serious and take genuine steps in light of the current regional unrest. Change is inevitable," Rintawi said.

Source: Xinhua
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