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Democracy, at last

Jan 19,2014 - Last updated at Jan 19,2014

Jordan last week witnessed an important transformation in its democratic process that will serve as a positive example of how parliamentarians can come together to force a change of policy — and this is the critical part — on behalf of their constituencies.

It was not to win favour with the government and guarantee a seat in the Cabinet for individuals; not to serve the interests of the security agencies; not to serve narrow sub-regional or familial, tribal or business interests, but to serve the electorate and, in this case, to serve almost 90,000 Jordanians as a single bloc that has been consistently lobbying to regain some rights for its members and their families in Jordan.

This achievement may have been temporarily overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the policy itself — and here I am referring to the decision to grant families of Jordanian women residency and civil rights.

But essentially what we witnessed was a parliamentary bloc, Mubadara, acting on behalf of a significant community of Jordanians who had been denied their rights, and negotiating with the government and succeeding in those negotiations.

The government, faced with an organised and well-prepared coalition of politicians, in turn understood the importance and significance of this “democratic” process, and formed an alliance with the bloc to arrive at a resolution that tackles the core of the problem and provides for a policy that also addresses temporary security and demographic considerations.

It is a win-win situation.

The critics of this step are largely vocal exclusionists who have been waving the stick of the “alternative homeland for Palestinians in Jordan” for decades, creating fear and xenophobia, and ensuring that democracy in Jordan remains chained, hostage and essentially immobilised by this supremacist narrative.

Every single time that Jordan — led by its leadership — takes a significant and noteworthy step towards democratisation, these voices suddenly become louder, throwing all kinds of irrelevant “security and demographic” phobias into the wheels of democracy.

Listen to what one of them says: “It must become clear to nationalist Jordanians, that the chain of decisions we see and for which this government, Parliament and the Senate must be made responsible, will lead to the creation of a staggering majority of 70 per cent representing Jordanians of Palestinian origin.

“This new reality will push forth unavoidable political change that will lead, in turn, to the restructuring of the Jordanian state to become an alternative homeland for the Palestinians and in which will live a small minority of marginalised and impoverished Jordanians who will be ready to turn into a radical extremist force and enter into a bloody conflict that will bring down our stability and peace forever and Jordan will become a failed country.”

Wow! Can anyone see the imagery all laid out — in the author’s mind — in an inevitable chain of events that will marginalise, impoverish, radicalise, remove the stability and peace of Jordanians and turn Jordan into a bloody war zone in which a majority of “Jordanians of Palestinian origin” reign supreme and the country disintegrates into failure and basically goes to pots? Honestly!

All of this will happen because of the “Jordanians” of Palestinian origin?

Are they a bloc of mindless, politically ambitious, treacherous, destructive force that has no allegiance to the country and its stability and success?

Does the word “Jordanian” in their nationality reference hold no value to them as they apparently lurk in the shadows waiting for any policy change and window of opportunity in order to “grow and destroy” the country?

Is this why these ethnically tarnished Jordanians should be systematically marginalised and downtrodden themselves?

Is this the narrative that the country’s leadership and senior politicians want to adopt as a basis for policy towards their “Jordanian” population?

Policies based on ethnic selectivity and favour?

Do we not know of any examples of Jordanians of Palestinian origin who contributed and continue to contribute to the security, stability and prosperity of Jordan, or are those acceptable only as long as they know not to reach over and expect any rights?

Mustafa Hamarneh, the deputy who led the parliamentary bloc in its negotiations with the government, worked diligently to respond to the needs of the women in his constituency who were married to non-Jordanians and who had been living in fear, poverty and alienation as a result of their decision to choose a partner from outside this country.

He is as an elected parliamentarian who addressed a requirement from his voters, and with determination and the support of equally able and conscientious Parliament members lobbied through with this issue until he got a result.

In that, he also set a new tradition that our Parliament — and I believe also political parties — would do well to emulate as a strategy: define and narrow the issue, lobby your colleagues in Parliament and among civil society agents to form a critical political mass that can influence the government change on policy, and remain flexible but determined.

He, and many of his colleagues in the parliamentary bloc, is “pure” Jordanian who did not allow separatist narratives to take away his sanity or political sense.

These MPs did not mix issues and did not feel shackled by the decrepit, feeble and worn out scarecrow tactics that have kept Jordan’s democratisation process back.

Most importantly, this parliamentary bloc has done its duty to the voters that elected them and whom they represent, and with it, they have in one single stroke improved the lives of 90,000 Jordanians and their families.

Even better, those Jordanians that Parliament and government stood up for this time — and perhaps for the first time ever — are all women, therefore recognising and re-establishing women as worthy citizens of this country.

They showcased how democracy can work for all in Jordan. Well done!

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