The hardships of life in Jordan have become even more difficult. Coupled with the country’s economic and financial woes, this means that the majority of Jordanians cannot occupy themselves with which ministers have left the government and which have joined, or who was given senior positions in the Royal Court and who was dismissed. The names of these individuals are mentioned, favoured or criticised only in discussions amongst journalists, the elites and current and former politicians.
There has now been a third cabinet reshuffle within a year, announced a few days ago. It was made with apparent resentment from the majority of the figures involved, while barely any Jordanian citizens paid it any attention.
According to six polls for the Arab Opinion Index conducted by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, Jordanians generally lack confidence in their governments; 41 per cent do not trust the government at all. Obviously, the good reputation of current Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz and the optimism when he took office did not help him much in the face of losses in recent months that have reduced his popularity and damaged his positive image. The ordinary performance of the government and lack of achievements, as well as its inability to find urgent solutions to the issues of poverty, inflation and unemployment are some of the factors behind the discontent with Razzaz, according to the president of the Economic and Social Council, Mustafa Al-Hamarneh.
The reasons for the reshuffle and changes in the Royal Court, security and state institutions are unconvincing. The reshuffle involved people from the same club who keep switching places and taking over senior positions; if a few new young faces do manage to infiltrate the club, we hear disparaging comments from journalists close to the scene. Public disregard and disinterest is exacerbated further by the fact that Razzaz does not seem concerned with the kind of large-scale political reform needed by the country, despite his exaggerated use of conciliatory language, including slogans borrowed from cultural projects that aren’t really relevant to people’s living conditions. Razzaz knows that the top priority is to address the economic situation, reduce debt and launch employment projects, especially given the shortage of foreign aid, the increasingly limited help from some Gulf countries, and the political price demanded by the arrogant US, which is supposed to be an ally.
In the midst of all of this, Jordanian citizens found themselves joining the elites, political actors and cultural, media and partisan parties in paying attention to King Abdullah’s message to the recently-appointed Director of General Intelligence, Major General Ahmed Husni. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the message was exceptional; it is not usual for the head of state to publically address abuses by this state institution, which is supposed to be immune to exposure and gossip. While the King mentioned the sincere and honourable service of this very sensitive and critical security agency, he said that a few individuals have deviated from sincere service to the country and put personal interests over public interests. This, King Abdullah insisted, requires immediate action and must be rectified. The monarch also mentioned those who tried to tamper with the foundations of the Jordanian constitution.
The message was followed by a storm of questions about what the King meant by mentioning such affairs and telling citizens about the flaws of the General Intelligence Department. According to the Arab Opinion Index in 2017-2018, 72 per cent of Jordanians have great confidence in this department, while 21 per cent have less confidence. It was the first ever among similar departments in eight Arab countries to receive such a high percentage of public confidence. The people of Jordan clearly prefer the intelligence agency over the government, political parties and parliament. Will the King’s words harm its image? Will the Razzaz government come up with something new and innovative that will rescue it?
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 15 May 2019