In a country where some Facebook groups have more members than most political parties, isn’t it time for new types of political forces to emerge?

In Jordan, the government is the only real political force with some sort of a plan. After all, those in government have to actually run the country and make sure that, just for example, the lights stay on, garbage gets collected and kids go to school.

The other political force, of course, are the Islamists. They enjoy big popular support (no one really knows how big) but they don’t seem to have concrete plan on how to realistically run the country (or if they have a plan, they are really bad at communicating it). Ideology and “Big Issues” like Palestine dominate the Islamist’s discourse (that and moralistic issues, like opposing male/female intermixing and so on).

Then the are all these small, insignificant parties. In the tiny Communist camp alone there are something like three parties fighting over who is more legitimate than the other. Things are a bit better for the milder leftists and Arab nationalist but they, like the communists, are really stuck in the past.

As for tribalism, well, in the bigger cities it is starting to lose importance. Tribalism as a form of political organization does not make much sense anyway.

So, in the end, we just have the Islamists, with their ever angry image and the government, which, as I said is the only political organization with any real power in the country.

We have a political landscape that is totally out of date and out of touch with today’s emerging Jordan. Political participation, everyone agrees, is important. After all, Jordan has become a more complex place than a few decades ago and cannot be run without real participation from the people (or forces that represent the ever more complex interests and needs of the people).

Today’s Jordan has many new constituencies: new commercial/urban elite, small business owners, young people who are educated (or are being educated), marginalized urban communities, environmentally sensitive communities and so on.

We have also been quickly transforming into a consumer society. Just five years ago we did not have glitzy malls. Now we do (in Amman at least). One third of Jordanian households have a computer and by the end of this year, a little under one fifth of households will have internet access. The younger generation’s ability to communicate has been freed up from parental control. A country where a majority of people have mobiles has different communication patterns than one (like Jordan ten years ago) where the father controlled the land line. Private media is establishing itself.

New realties. New politics.

Such an emerging Jordan needs new forms of political representation that go beyond the traditional government,-Islamist-tribal triangle.

The latest municipal elections where boring (during the campaign) and, after the vote, turned into a fiasco as the Islamists and the government started shooting heavy accusations at each other.

This country deserves better politics. So is anything on the horizon?

I was thinking about these issues as I read a recent article by Al-Ghad columnist Muhammad Abu Rumman, who is becoming one of my favorite local writers.

His article last week entitled “New ideas and upcoming political forces” was the first I read that talks about new forms of political forces in Jordan appearing on the radar screen.

I will not attempt a full translation of Abu Rumman’s article but I would like to highlight some of its main points.

He says that his prediction about the emergence of new political forces in Jordan is not just a ‘wild guess’, as social and economic developments will, naturally. give birth to new ideas, even if these ideas are just ‘seeds’. These seeds will grow and have the potential to change the political scene if their natural growth is allowed.

One such political project is what is being called ‘Torches of the Future’, which represents what Abu Rumman calls “young private sector capitalists” who feel they have a political role to play, dictated by their political and business interests.

Abu Rumman makes a distinction between the people behind the ‘Torches’ elite and the ‘young globalized elite’ who already occupy leading positions in the political structure. The main difference is that the ‘Torches’ feel that their ascent to politics has to be through democratic means in a manner that reflects a certain social reality. I think what Abu Rumman means is that many of the young leaders in government are merely the sons of traditional political families. They were never elected to their positions.

Interestingly, Abu Rumman says that the ‘Torches’ adopt a ‘Haririst’ model, meaning that they consider the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri as a guiding example, as he’s someone who came from the world of business to play a decisive role in the political, cultural and economic development of his country, carrying with him an elite of business people and intellectuals whose creativity was directed through Hariri’s movement to help the national Lebanese project and also create opportunities for the less fortunate sectors of society.

Close to the ‘Torches’ idea, are the cultural activities of the ‘Free Thought Forum’ which is a young liberal initiative that, although elitist in nature, reflects a growing social trend as well.

On the other end of the spectrum are movements born out of harsh economic realities. The prime example is that of the “Thabahtoona” student movement (Arabic: ‘You’re Killing Us’) which is a grassroots movement that fights against the increases in tuition fees in Jordanian universities. (I could not find an offical home page for the movement).

Similar movements can be expected to appear as people organize themselves in the face of escalating costs of living in the country.

Abu Rumman also mentions a party under formation with the name of ‘Life Party’, which is supposed to defend the rights of marginalized sectors of society, such as people with disabilities, women and young people. The party also stresses environmental and social issues.

Goodbye ideology?

Abu Rumman ends his article by saying that such new political forces can bring new dynamism to the stale political game in Jordan, which is dominated by the Government-Islamist duality.

I might add that regional developments might also help give birth to new political forces in Jordan.

Take Turkey for example. Today the country is being ruled by a mildly Islamist (yet pro-western/pro-business) President and Prime Minister. Will a mildly Islamist party appear one day in Jordan that appeals to people with conservative social views but who do not fully subscribe to the angry discourse of the current Islamist movement in Jordan?

Jordan is a country that has, for decades, enjoyed an amazing degree of stability. It is also a safe country. This is something people are appreciating more and more as they see the tragic developments in Iraq and Palestine.

A foreign social scientist who studied and visited Jordan once told me that Jordan remains a ‘soft’ country. We had no major upheavals or bloodshed for decades. In this sociologist’s view, Jordan is a good candidate for the emergence of new kinds of original ideas on the political and social levels.

If we take this comment, then look at our developing reality and add to it the observations and examples of Abu Rumman’s article, then we might be witnessing the birth (or the embryo, to be more accurate) of a new political age in Jordan.

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23 responses to “Isn’t it time for new types of political forces in Jordan to emerge?”

  1. Mohanned Avatar

    What we need is someone who is clean and honest who was not polluted by the system, we need a new blood that can tackle what we really care for, but sadly what we saw and what we are seeing now is just some system corrupts who are trying to gain more power. The ones that try to stand in the face of those forces always give up and most of the time they leave the country…

    And regarding tribalism, it still is very powerful in jordan, and the current elections law gives more favouritism to the concept of family and tribes. For example in karak the seat in parilment ratio to number of voters is 6000:1 while in some areas in amman is 50000:1.

  2. hamede Avatar

    Good post, thank you.

  3. Dave Avatar

    A good read. Thanks.

  4. Munther Avatar

    “As for tribalism, well, in the bigger cities it is starting to lose importance. ”

    That’s why the parlimant is designed to marginalize the cities and give the greates share of seats to desert and rural areas where tribalism is the only political party. as you can see, the regime has built jordanian “democracy” with an eye on keeping it ineffective. Educated jordanians, who are city dwellers, are problematic for an authoritarian regime. They are more loyal to Jordan the country and its people. Tribal types are more loyal to the tribe and to the man who secures their privileges. they wave the flag only so long as they material benefits are secured. these are the people who run jordan. when they have to pay the water and electiric bill and when their subsidies are reduced, they protest and pillage and suddenly jordanism takes a back seat to their privileges. in that sense, they are a safe people. pay them and they are loyal. there is predictability in this sort of politics.

  5. Fann Avatar

    You seem impressed with Al-Ghad. I find Al-Ghad to be another official newspaper. Actually, they are more pro-regime than Al-Rai. I don’t recall a week going by without them attacking the opposition or attacking the unions or pro-democracy, pro-human right civil society. They never discuss the most critical issues facing Jordan be it the failed peace process, the secutity collaboration with Israel and US, torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners (only when HRW exposes the issue do they flex their muscles and only to mitigate the criticism), they never discuss the plight of the silenced majority who have been deliberately excluded from political participation simply because of their palestinian origins (refer to parliament % of seats allocated to areas populated by jordanian-Palestinians).

    if any, Al-Ghad is a waste of paper. and Al-Ghad TV will be a waste of bandwidth. they are nothing more than Al-Waseet with politics.

    Lets face it, there is a difference between security & stability and between repression. Since the civil war, Jordan’s regime has been running a repressive society. dissent is not tolerated. personal freedoms have become a substitute for political freedoms. the opposition, no matter how loyal to the regime (eg the islamists) has been dealt with severely. If Jordan is a safe place, so was Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. As for your american socialolgist, of course the west praises those regime who do their dirty work. why do you think the US is interested in regime change in Iraq and Iran but not in Jordan or Saudi or Tunis or Morocco? did we forget the brutality of the late Moroccan king to his people? the acid baths to opposition leaders? so please do not quote western politicians when it comes to arabs puppet regimes.

    only reason you don’t see a problem with the regime is a result of the fact you are not one of 30% impoverished and unemployed Jordanians. And because you will not bear the burden of the billions in national debt, a direct result of systematic corruption and mismanagement, that most poor Jordanians will have to bear.

    There will not be a third party in jordan, not so long as people who claim to be liberal fail yo stand up to liberal values of democracy, freedoms, and equality, and justice. until then, there will be only the regime minions and the islamists. the former suck the blood dry out of the national economy and survive only by undermining arab national security through providing support and comfort for imperialists and colonialists. the islamists don’t and they are immune to corruption. that alone will make them very popular and very powerful.

  6. Fann Avatar

    one more thing

    have you heard of the comedic attempt by regime men to create a centrists party?

    for the record, imost jordanians would rather be Satan Worshipers then be in a party with the likes of Jamil Nimri and Salah el Qallab and Ayman Safadi and other “moderates.” their writings along cause me severe constipation.

  7. Humeid Avatar


    thanks for you comment.

    Some of your facts are mixed up:

    1. Al Ghad cannot be described as more “pro-regime” than Al-Rai. In the latest wave of attacks on the Islamist, Al Rai was the main outlet of the attack, while Al Ghad asked both sides to moderate their talk. Al Ghad is not an opposition paper for sure. I could describe it as a liberal leaning moderate newspaper. Readers seem to like it. It repaced Addustour as the No.2 paper in Jordan.

    2. My article was about Mohammad Ab Rumma’s article and not about Al Ghad.

    3. Comparing Jordan to Stalinist Russia is totally wrong. Go read the history of Stalin or Mao then make a comparison.

    4. Jamil Al Nimri is a former leftist (who was imprisoned in the old days for that). He is not in anyway part of the centrist party.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone, Islamists or otherwise is “immune” to corruption.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  8. Waldo Avatar

    [Readers seem to like alghad]

    Really? says who? alghad?

    an insider told me that less that 5000 thousand copies are sold. the rest given away for free. but to describe a newspaper whose editor has made it his mission in life to attack unions, opposition, and civil society strikes me as incredulous. if al-ghad is a liberal, moderate, than the British Independent is Bohemian Anarchists. Amazing how basic definitions get corrupted by jordanian neoliberals. When was the last time you read in the “liberal, moderate” Al-Ghad a call for democracy? when was the last time you read in Al-Ghad call for equality between the silenced majority (jordanian-palestinains) and rest of jordanians? When was the last time you read in Al-Ghad praise for independent civil society? when was the last time you read in al-ghad about the lack of social justice whereby one group of Jordanians pays most taxes while others enjoy them? please, use the term “liberal, moderate” when it applies. there are hardly any traces of liberalism or moderation in Al-Ghad.The Independent is liberal, moderate. Der Spiegel is liberal, moderate. heck even Haaretz is liberal, moderate. neo-liberal opportunists is what best describes all of Al-Waseet’s byproducts, from Al-Ghad to its spin off TV channel, espicially now that the dirt has come out about its sources of funding.

  9. Waldo Avatar

    [Comparing Jordan to Stalinist Russia is totally wrong.]

    in Black September, over 30,000 Jordanians were killed by the regime. in a country with a population of 3 million, that’s the equivalent of 3 million Jordanians killed, on a Soviet scale of 300 million people. get your math straight. 70% of those killed were non-combatants. unless you subscribe to the official “liberal, moderate” version. for decades after that, jordanian palestinains lived under repressive marshall laws. if you want more evidence of continued marginalization at the simplest level, go read street names.

  10. Sid Vicious Avatar
    Sid Vicious

    I second that, no one is immune to corruption.

    And to be honest, even if we did have new political forces emerging, so what? They’ll end up just like the aforementioned parties. Have the Islamists or the Socialists ever done anything even close to comparable with what other political parties do and have done in a modern country? I don’t know of any, please enlighten me if I’m wrong.

    This makes me sick, all this youth, all this potential, not just politically, in everything, and yet all of it going to waste. Don’t you see that something is wrong here? All of our youth, stripped off and made into a part in this machine.

    Whatever “big brother” decides is best for everyone, is what everyone will be getting. Until that changes, political parties are nothing.

  11. Yazan Ashqar Avatar
    Yazan Ashqar

    Waldo : “if al-ghad is a liberal, moderate, than the British Independent is Bohemian Anarchists. Amazing how basic definitions get corrupted by jordanian neoliberals.”

    right on!
    personally, i find that al-Arab alYawm is the best newspaper in Gordan. But back to the main topic, fear is what’s holding people up from participating in political development. I remember when Faisal Fayez was the prime minister, where he demanded people to criticize him in favor of political dev, but nevertheless, fear is still around, and to be fair, people still mix between criticizing the government and insulting the king. This is not an easy task for sure.

  12. Humeid Avatar

    Waldo.. Your numbers for the 1970 war seem to be very exaggerated. I am no historian but the numbers that I know are much less than 30,000. In any case this was a tragic chapter in the country’s history. But let me tell you something: people have long moved beyond this war. Talking about it in a provocative way is only done by people who’s only interest is to draw attention and stir emotions for whatever point they want to prove.

    Anyway.. the point of the original post is to highlight some of the emerging/future trends in Jordan’s politics. And not to discuss Al Ghad’s distribution numbers or discuss a war that happened 37 years ago.

    So let’s stay with the subject please.

  13. Footaa Avatar

    [people have long moved beyond this war.]

    really? and you see no discrimination? no political marginalization? no inequity? remember the abu odeh ordeal? what about the grotesque joke called parliament and its horrifically unjust distribution of political representation, even for such a worthless parliament. this is aimed at shutting up and shutting out Jordanian Palestinians. you don’t see any of this? people DID NOT move on. they are just afraid to get killed or jailed or tortured. fact is, this imbalance is deliberate. it’s nurtured by the regime to divide and conquer and keep jordanains pitted against one another. and there plenty of Jordanians on all sides who will provide fodder for this sick game. but since most Jordanians are mature enough to understand the objective of the divide and conquer game, they avoid it for the greater good, not to be confused with moving on. in a sense, Jordanians are the most politically mature Arabs and all of jordan’s positives can be attributed to its citizens and all its negatives to the parasitic regime.

    there is a difference between moving on and keeping silent for the sake of jordan. moving on happens when equality and justice are restored to Jordan, even in the absence of democracy. But that seems more distant today than ever. that’s why the islamists look good even to staunch leftists. they are demographically-blind. they put ideology above origin. add to it their immunity to corruption, their anti-imperialism, and you just can’t find any politcal force to compete with them. so long as the regime is corrupt and unjust, the future is for the islamists.

  14. Roze Avatar

    ahmad: So let’s stay with the subject please.

    you can’t have any real third party that ignores the points discussed. it will be a worthless party. there are real issues that have stood in the way of jordan’s evolution.

    for any 3rd party to exist as a real player it will have to break the silence on all the critical issues being swept under the carpet such as ending the siege of the silenced majority, downgrading peace with Israel to a no-war armistice, shutting down or reconstituting the parliament, striving for true national unity through equality and justice, fighting corruption and denying immunity form prosecution to anyone…ANYONE, establishing a Jordanian Truth and Reconciliation commission for Black September along the lines of South Africa’s. this is how you really move on.

    In the absence of a real party with a real agenda, there is really nothing to discuss.

  15. omar Avatar

    I second Humeid’s reply to Waldo regarding Black September. We’re not very proud of it, every country has a stain in it’s history yet people HAVE moved on and Jordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians are living in total harmony nowadays so no point of you trying to knock down such thing…

    Regarding your post Ahmad, It’s kind of sad to see how political parties broken down – I guess it’s a proof that they’re not that sustainable and they are greatly exposed to corruption as you mentioned earlier.

    I believe if you and other three people tend to agree in thoughts and political views, just enjoy having them together and don’t try to market it to other people and act as if you’re right…lol

  16. Humeid Avatar


    thanks for your comment.

    Please note that my post (based on Abu Rumman’s article) mentions a whole range of political movement (from business elite to marginalized communities).

    So I didn’t understand what you meant when you say that I am ‘marketing’ a ‘view’ to others as the ‘right’ view.

    Despite the attempts of some of the people above to make this a discussion about Black September, I think the main point of interest to me remains the fact that Jordan’s reality today has the potential to produce new political movements to move beyond the failed Government-Islamist duality.

  17. Sid Vicious Avatar
    Sid Vicious

    This is totally irrelevant but what the heck…

    Waldo: “in Black September, over 30,000 Jordanians were killed by the regime.”

    Okay, I don’t agree with everything the regime does but this is too much, you make sound like it’s the government’s fault some Jordanians wanted to have a state within a state. And you’re not citing any credible sources, who’s your source? Arafat?

    And Footaa (Are you Waldo as well?) no offense but most of your post is full of crap. I can argue with you forever, but I’m not in the mood for this same old story again.

    What I really like though, is how you, like most of the population, think you have “The” Answer, “The” Facts, without any objectivity whatsoever. A guy reads a fuckin’ paper, develops a couple of opinions and he thinks he’s found the holy grail. Gimme a Fuckin’ Break.

  18. Jarrar Avatar

    Sid, You are so classy. People are entitled to their opnion and you can agree or disagree.

    Waldo did not utter obscenities like you did. So learn to respect people’s opinion and show some civility. Your views are not better than his and your opinions do not trump anyones. Get that into your thick head before you lecture on the Truth.

    Ahmad, you have disappointed me. You pretend to want a civilized debate but you tolerate such obscene posts.

  19. I LOVE JORDAN Avatar

    Ahmad: as you can se from the deeply disturbed post of Vicious, it’s evident many Jordanians did not move on. This is one classic case of intimidation, a micro sample of the repression that takes place in Jordan at the official level whenever this discusion is opened. Last year, the latest edition of a book by leading Jordanian-Palestinian intellectual Ibrahim Nasrallah was banned in Jordan when he sought to obtain a permit from the government for the new edition. the irony is that fomer editions of the book were permitted to circulate in Jordan before the reign of KAII. It’s a love story during Black September between a west banker and an east banker. That’s how bad things have turned in jordan. No one forgot the Abu Audeh episode either. So it’s not just the economy that went south, it’s freedoms on all fronts.

    Sid: as for people like you, we can dress you up, but you can’t take you anywhere.

  20. omar Avatar

    No Ahmad – I didn’t mean YOU, I just meant the way some political movements function by trying to spread their ideas and apply them on everybody…
    So I didn’t particularly mean you.

    And yes, I fully understand your post that took a wrong turn in the comments to become a discussion about Black September. I fully agree with you about this, what matters is Jordan now.

  21. Sid Vicious Avatar
    Sid Vicious

    okay Mr Jarrar and I LOVE JORDAN

    First of all, all I said was an effin’ paper and gimme an effin break, hardly the stuff of “obscene posts”. I never insulted him or anyone else.

    And I never said he didn’t have a right to his opinion or that he couldn’t say what he wanted. He’s the one who’s talking as if we’re all wrong and he knows it all, providing us with all this info for facts when we don’t know where he got it from.

    And you Mr I LOVE JORDAN, what the heck are you talking about? “disturbed post” ? “many jordanians didn’t move on” ? “This is one classic case of intimidation, a micro sample of the repression that takes place in Jordan at the official level” ???? Seriously, I don’t see the connection, please PLEASE enlighten me.

    Funny how a word that starts with an “F” gets all the attention and is considered offensive while a whole paragraph full of it is not. I’m sure you both are big boys now, you can handle a new word or two. Leaving my whole post and just focusing on the “F” word… pfft, gimme a break… (There ya go, no effin’)

  22. Ahmad Al-Sholi Avatar
    Ahmad Al-Sholi

    Bare with the long lines, I am trying to state facts.
    Where Humeid got the article from are the pages less read in any paper by majority, most people barely make it through the first page, last page, ADs, and funeral announcements. So again, 5000 distributed comes to no importance. Given the current IT High-Tech Professional Jordanians, Al-Ghad is way ahead in terms of editing, content, lay outs and not to forget the websites comparison.
    What Ahmad mentions is very true in fact, at least I would totally agree with him on Amman’s level. At work, with friends and family, in papers, at outing places people are discussing business, real estate boom, investments, employment opportunities “for high caliber”, foreign coming companies and less about parliament, elections, political situation “though dominant Ammanis tend to be more on the Jordanian official side” due to tragedies in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Sudan being most but not just the horrific pan Arab problems.
    While we are witnessing modernization and global model change of Jordan’s economy, society elevation is inevitable! When the state fully withdraws from the parental role, unions are to grow and prosper, corporate will tackle unions and vice versa! corporate will support candidates who will put laws in their favor, again corporate will care for unions opinion, unions will look to extend their grounds, they need to nurture their individuals that will be served also by the corporate or organizations to market goods, ideas, or whatever they want to sell!
    This is how democracies work! Across Europe, US, Canada, and Japan politicians are favored according to their economic/tax/energy/employment plans, within that international politics move, in addition to the terrorism fear especially for the states. Please correct me if I am wrong.
    If you can see where Jordan stands economically, you can draw the timeline yourself with all the deficiencies that most pessimistic can point out!
    Sociologies (Devine and Scientific) praise the economic well being of individuals, all acts and stands of individuals can be mapped to their economic situation one way or another, that’s again where you can track changes happening in Jordan today.
    To some friends contributing above regarding the Jordanian-Palestinian identity and conflict –and am a member of that club as well-: It’s better said that I am a Jordanian and I am a Palestinian, love both, serve both. Nurture the idea of the Homeland first, differentiate between the country and the corrupt, and ask what your role will be in serving rather than cursing.

  23. Sid Vicious Avatar
    Sid Vicious

    post it one more time and get a free 360east keychain