Term Paper: Jordan Political Structure

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Jordan Political Structure

The democratization process in the Arab world

Democracy is a form of government in which citizens are part of the decision making process.

For the past sixteen years and especially since September 11, 2001, authoritarian government in the Arab world have been pressured by civil society organizations (CSOs) into implementing thorough reforms, a method considered by western scholars, development agencies and policy makers to be leading to the very much desired and expected political transformation. In Sean L. Yom's opinion "an armada of international diplomatic, financial, and moral support thus endorses CSOs as a pivotal force in stimulating the collapse of Arab autocracy."

However, several problems must be solved in order to make things less complicated for those working in favor of the democracy in the Arab world: on the one hand there is no "consensual definition of what organizations Arab civil society precisely comprises." For example, regarding this issue, it is still a dilemma whether Islamists are part of the civil life and whether they can be useful for supporting democratic objectives. On the other hand, another problem that must be dealt with is that "the civil society thesis presumes that through the collective force of its demands and interests, the associational sector can compel unwilling authoritarian governments to instigate periods of democratization." Over the past twenty years, civic activism episodes have been kept under control, which leads to the conclusion that in the Arab world civil society is still strongly ruled by autocratic and repressive regimes.

In the Arab world, the democratization process is strongly inhibited by several factors, such as: interstate conflicts, transnational ideologies and external rents. Professor Walid Khalidi, research fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, in his comparison regarding the bonds and tensions in the Arab world refers to them as centrifugal and centripetal forces: "the centrifugal forces of 'ethnicity and interstate conflict' keep the Arab world apart while the centripetal forces of 'common experience of colonial powers, Islam, Arabic, custom and manners' keep it together." Regarding Arab-Western relations, Khalidi considers that "the Arab reaction to the 'American motivation' in the gulf will be an important factor in Arab views of all Western countries" and that the West has had a great influence in the modern Arab world since the end of the 18th century.

Interstate conflicts inhibit the process of democratization in the Arab world, because democracy can only be present in states not involved in conflicts of any kind. The existence of a conflict between states proves that one of the states involved does not agree with several aspects, of any kind, concerning another state, and takes forceful actions to change the facts. If a state does not respect another, whether suitable or not, it means democracy, the freedom of expression at any level, lacks completely.

The Arab-Muslim religious philosophy of Jihad, of forceful contest and conversion finds its violent expression also in intra-Arabic conflicts. The fact is that the number of Arabs killed in armed conflict is much greater in wars among Arab-Muslim factions, than in wars against Israel." "Of course, a transition from autocratic and closed systems to open and democratic ones cannot be realized without pain," Albrecht Schnabel says.

These transition "pains" can be diminished if the society in case is open to political, economic and cultural modern values, and if "it already displays a civic political culture that has been carefully promoted and groomed by civil society throughout the years and decades preceding the official initiation of a democratization process." However, it seems that only some of the authoritarian governments in the Arab world allow civil society to contribute to the democratization process.

Regarding transnational ideologies, in the twentieth century in the Middle East there has been an important interaction between brad trans-national ideologies, like Arab nationalism and Islam, and state-based nationalism. Arab nationalism, one of the most powerful ideologies, was able to affect the decisions and actions of several nation-states in the Middle East in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Also, pan-Islamic ideology was also strongly able to influence and inform the behavior of nation-states in the region during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. For the past decades, both Arab nationalism and pan-Islamic ideology have grown to become competitors in the context of nation-state nationalism in the Middle East. In the twentieth century, Islam lost much of its political force, while Arab nationalism became more and more powerful.

Religion is one of the most sensitive issues nowadays. Transnational ideologies do not favor the freedom of religious expression, therefore they are one of the factors that inhibit the implementation of the democratization process in the Arab world, where transnational ideologies are the most powerful in the world.

Concerning external rents, "rentier regimes naturally exhibit extreme fiscal immaturity, and few participatory institutions, reducing the number of pressure points by which CSOs can pressure the regime for openness." It seems that the profundity of rates was a condition for the authoritarian elites "to buy acquiescence to their rule" through complex networks of clientele patronage rather than engage challengers through open contestation.

Also, these rents have favored inefficient public sectors that resist economic openness and "channel massive amounts of patronage to political and business clients, dampening private sector performance and encouraging the growth of the informal sector."

Another related fact5 is that "rentier income finances military-security establishment, even in periods of economic duress. When the 1980s oil collapse rippled throughout the region, many regimes accepted structural adjustment packages that drained government coffers and increased real income inequality. Social turmoil crested, but aging autocrats persisting in financing the coercive apparatus while initiating their system of controlled liberalization vis-a-vis civil society."

Al-Aqsa Intifada is the wave of violence and political conflict that began at the end of September 2000 between Israel and the Palestinians and has evolved into an ugly wave of terrorism. The Palestinians have become famous for using suicide bombings, while the Israelis have started building the West Bank separation barrier.

The most important immediate effect of the outbreak of the [al-Aqsa] Intifada was to precipitate a new American diplomatic initiative, involving concessions to the Palestinians that went beyond what we had been offered at Camp David, and tentative Israeli acceptance of these new proposals," History professor Benny Morris said.

The United States, through President Clinton, dispatched a set of proposals to induce an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to Barak and Arafat. The U.S. proposals "called for a hand-over of 94-96% of the West Bank to Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli territorial compensation to the Palestinians elsewhere for the 4-6% it would retain; the evacuation of most Israeli settlements; an international force to secure the new borders, particularly between the West Bank and Jordan; early warning stations in the West Bank; the demilitarization of the Palestinian state" and others.

Regarding Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, it "has been heavily influenced by external events. The modern state itself was the result of British imperial ambitions in the Middle East. Anxious to create a land bridge between British-controlled oil-fields in Iraq and the Mediterranean cost, the territory of Transjordan was created in 1921." In the 1920s and 1930s, Jordan's politics were still influenced by the British colonial policies. However, since the 1940s, Jordanian politics began to be influenced by the conflicts between Zionism, Arab nationalism and Palestinian nationalism, which continues to dominate politics in Jordan ever since. The Arab-Israeli conflict, the Gulf War, and other Middle East conflicts have made huge impacts on the Jordanian economy. Even if Jordan's peace with the surrounding countries has made it a preference for Palestinians, Lebanese and other refugees, there is a rise of extremism in Jordan. Also, a Jordanian law allows Palestinians to immigrate and obtain Jordanian citizenship, unless they are Jews, which also cannot purchase land in Jordan. In 1994, Jordan signed a nonbelligerency agreement… [END OF PREVIEW]

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