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A shadow Cabinet and the moment of truth

Mar 29,2018 - Last updated at Mar 29,2018

The endgame of political reform is a parliamentary government, all agree, where the majority leads and the minority scrutiuises and offers solutions, and Jordan has been taking steps into that direction, but nothing of the sort materialised and is not expected in the foreseen future. Regardless of why, what we are left with is same old, same old: an inefficient legislature, a fragmented, populist opposition and a government fighting an up-hill battle to sell its policies to an increasingly disgruntled public.

Perhaps the most dismaying aspect of political action at this critical stage is that opposition figures of different calibres jump at every available microphone and take to every pulpit and platform and try to outbid everybody else in fanning an already raging fire, without providing substantial answers to public policy questions still hanging in the air. 

Switching to a more positive mode, we can cite two reasons that render the idea of some form of a shadow Cabinet a practical one. The first is that willing opposition powers can group under some kind of an umbrella entity and forge their positions on every aspect of public affairs. The Jordan Civil Alliance is one example as it brings together people from the wider political spectrum, not forgetting the Mubadara movement led by former MP Mustafa Hamarneh, an interesting but, regrettably, short-lived initiative. 

The other encouraging element is that the new makeup of the government includes a vigorous economic team that seems resolved and confident enough to defend the government's policies and even most painful decisions. This was evident in the meeting of the taskforce, led by Deputy Prime Minister Jaafar Hassan, with media leaders this week.

So the road ahead, if we seek a healthy national debate, is to see the opposition discard hollow social media messages and abandon the good-for-nothing race for attention to offer the public alternative plans to overcome the formidable challenges at hand.  It is not impossible for them to select a team of counterparts to the incumbent premier and ministers and be ready for the moment of truth. 

For its part, the government is required to be transparent and put all the facts on the table, listen and respond in the context of debates on national TV and other platforms: reality versus illusion and facts in the face of misperceptions. An enlightened public opinion will be the judge. 

There is a precedent. In 2011, then deputy premier Ayman Safadi threw down the gloves and went for a headline-grabbing, one-on-one challenge on Jordan TV's 60 Minutes with the secretary general of the Islamic Action Front at the time, Hamza Mansour. Both came out winners because they embraced a dialogue of respect.   

"Keep a healthy suspicion of those who have abandoned the path of dialogue … Truth is light; it is there for all to see and share," His Majesty the King told a young audience in the Netherlands last week. 


The writer is the deputy chief editor of The Jordan Times

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