With the sharp polarization in Jordan between the government and the opposition, and the ongoing popular protests, King Abdullah II has employed a new approach in the past two days, insinuating that parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year may be postponed.
At a banquet held by Jordanian figures, the monarch delved deep into the internal issue. The most prominent idea discussed, which shocked the audience, was the possibility of postponing the elections indefinitely. Participants in the event told Al-Hayat that the king said that “the elections will be held on time, unless something new or urgent takes place.” This is the first time that the king has referred to the possibility of postponing elections after he repeatedly emphasized that the elections were set for Jan. 23.
In the same context, official sources and others close to the royal palace told Al-Hayat that King Abdullah is seriously considering the possibility of postponing elections and adding quick amendments to the electoral law, to which the opposition has objected, particularly the Islamists. They added that the government's decision to raise fuel prices significantly affected the atmosphere of the elections and caused the government to lose some of its popularity. Later on, protests against the rise of fuel prices — which increased by 53% — escalated and were accompanied by violence and rioting.
Lengthy discussions are currently being held in the royal palace regarding three initiatives suggested by sovereign institutions and figures and others close to the regime. The initiatives are designed to defuse the crisis that has threatened the elections, which many forces have announced that they will boycott. Protests have continued over the past two weeks, with participants burning their voter ID cards.
The first initiative consists of postponing the elections, adding quick amendments to the electoral law and launching a comprehensive national dialogue under the patronage of the royal palace. This initiative includes two measures to be implemented. The first calls for the issuing of a royal decree reinstating the dissolved parliament, which unavoidably means postponing the elections. The second measure recommends imposing a state of emergency for a short period of time in order to freeze the controversial electoral law and issue a temporary law enabling everyone to participate in the elections.
Saleh al-Armouti, a legal expert and former president of the Jordanian Bar Association, emphasized that the last measure is impossible to implement and told Al-Hayat that “Constitutional Article 124 prohibits the issuance of any temporary laws during a state of emergency.” He said that the solution lies in reinstating the parliament or the government submitting the election law to the constitutional court, which is in charge of interpreting this law.
The second initiative currently being examined includes reaching a new deal between the government and the opposition, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. Most importantly, the initiative consists of “keeping the issue of parliamentary elections off the discussion table and giving it full legitimacy, provided that the discussion and amendments of the electoral law take place in the future parliament.” This would be in exchange for “allowing the opposition and the Brotherhood representation in the future government and senate, the latter of which is appointed by the king, with each party given a set share of seats.”
However, the third initiative, which was suggested by some conservative figures within the government, is committed to holding the elections on time without mentioning the law according to which the elections will be held. It argues that revoking the one-man-one-vote system “enables Islamists to have an overwhelming majority in parliament.” The initiative’s supporters plan to postpone the elections only if surprising developments take place in areas near the northern border with Syria.
Government spokesman Samih Maaytah said that “The Jordanian state is seriously preparing the right conditions for the elections, by opening new channels for communication and dialogue with the various parties.”