Protest in Amman, September 2012
As the impact of the Arab Spring continues to be felt across many parts of the Middle East, the Jordanian regime's unwillingness to heed calls for meaningful political reform, greater press freedoms and democratisation is antagonising political and civil society activists alike.
While protests and demonstrations in Jordan have been small and relatively peaceful compared with those in other countries in the region, the royal court's continued intransigence could lead to further unrest, including violent clashes with security forces.
In what was widely seen as an effort to stamp out criticism of the royal court, the Jordanian parliament – which consists mainly of conservative pro-regime members – recently passed a controversial press and publications law that requires online media organisations to register and obtain licences from the authorities.
In addition, online publishers will be held accountable for comments posted by readers on their website and they will be prohibited from publishing comments that are not strictly relevant to the published article (how this is to be determined is far from clear). This law is clearly designed to limit the dissemination of political commentary that may be critical of the regime.
Although the royal court has in recent months proposed changes to the constitution and the electoral law, these have largely been dismissed as a cosmetic exercise since the king will retain the power to dismiss parliament at will and the proposed new electoral system is still rigged in favour of regime supporters.
In addition, the majority of Jordanians (ie Palestinian-Jordanians) will be significantly under-represented in the parliament. The leading opposition group in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front (IAF – the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood) has vowed to boycott legislative elections planned for early next year and has called for a mass rally to take place in early October.
The IAF is demanding meaningful constitutional amendments to reduce the powers of the king and to amend the current electoral system, which mainly benefits regime supporters. Additionally, influential Transjordanian tribes have been calling for anti-corruption measures as well as amendments to the constitution to give further powers to the parliament.
While there have not been calls for the abolition of the monarchy, the royal court's refusal to properly engage with the protesters is likely to increase tension in the kingdom and could ultimately lead to calls for the removal of the king.
The royal court has a difficult balancing act to perform.