By Ali Younes
In Jordan media reports said that former Crown prince Hassan might form the new cabinet in light of the dire economic and political upheavals Jordan is going through now. News outlets also reported of an imminent change of government along with change in other key governmental agencies.
Although appointing the senior Hashemite prince is not unconstitutional, and within the realm of plausibility, it would be however, an unprecedented move by the King Abdullah II to appoint a senior member of his family (his uncle) to the post of Prime Minister.
Unlike the Gulf ruling families where the prince or the King and their prime minister are from the same ruling family, Jordan however, has a different kind of civic infrastructure (political and active professional guilds) and has more dynamic and urban population. More importantly however, Jordan, unlike the Gulf States is a very poor country with no oil and has no real functioning economic infrastructure to insulate the royal family from criticism and challenges to its legitimacy.
Jordan, in addition, has a different political orientation and political history than the Gulf Kingdoms. The prime minister of Jordan is traditionally a nominal figurehead. He does not rule and has no actual power and his sole function, in realpolitik, is to act as a buffer between the king and the general population especially in crisis situations and his term in office does not exceed several months and a year at best. In other words the Prime Minister of Jordan is the King’s sacrificial- lamb-in-waiting.
Jordanian political tradition stipulates that If and when social upheavals erupt due to economic crisis or political oppression, the first thing the king would do is to fire his PM, blame him for the crisis, and appoint another for yet another short term. This cycle has been going on ever since Jordan was established as modern political entity 90 years ago. During their 90 year reign in Jordan, the Hashemite Family has never appointed a direct family member as a prime minister.
Appointing the senior Prince Hassan, moreover, a veteran politician, and former Crown prince would not solve Jordan’s massive political and economic corruption problems, and would not end the chronic budget deficit nor will it reduce the unofficial 25 percent unemployment rate. The Jordanian economy is crumbling and suffers from rampant corruption while political leaders and many of the “elected” legislatures engage in illegal activities and corrupt.
In addition, the prince would not be able to end Jordan’s total dependence for its survival as a viable state on U.S. and Gulf foreign aid and on the military protection of the United States. As a result, Jordan would continue to survive as a state only through the goodwill of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and the United States. The jittery Jordanian citizens would also continue to take to the streets to protest their worsening economic and security conditions.
Another problem would face the Prince should he accept the position is the relation between himself and the head of General Intelligence Department (the Mukhabarat) who is the second most powerful figure in Jordan after the King and in most cases bypass the PM in key decisions in the country. Another powerful figure the Prince would have contend with is the Chief of the Royal Court who also functions as the King’s private prime minister and has more power and influence than the PM.
Would the King, in addition, continue with the tradition and sack his uncle and use him as sacrificial lamb to insulate himself from direct criticism? It is plausible, but it would then create a perception and a precedent whereby a Hashemite, especially with seniority of Prince Hassan, is no longer over and above the law and the constitution as it is today and therefore a seated Hashemite can be removed from power by sheer power of the public.
Under such scenario, albeit unlikely at this point, the King would expose himself to direct challenge from the people over the legitimacy of his rule if Jordanian citizens continue to suffer and their living conditions worsened.
– Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and @clearali.