Jordan is currently wrestling with a bold timeline of democratic reforms introduced by a royal commission in October 2021 and ratified by parliament in January, notes a new report from the Project on Middle East Democracy.* These changes could potentially transform the authoritarian kingdom into a constitutional monarchy over the next decade, and they represent the country’s most momentous reform program since martial law ended in 1989.
The changes could potentially transform Jordan into a constitutional monarchy within a decade, but they currently face two primary obstacles, authors Sean Yom and Wael Al-Khatib write:
- One is that the government has mitigated some of the democratic reforms by introducing its own constitutional amendments to keep significant power vested within the monarchy.
- Another is that widespread public apathy borne from the failure of past democratic initiatives by the palace will be difficult to overcome. Issues of inclusive representation and identity politics—not among the current reforms—need to be addressed in order to secure popular confidence in the process.
Jordan’s prospects for democracy will depend upon three forces, the authors suggest:
- political will from the state to honor its timeline for democratization,
- popular pressures from below to ensure that powerholders do not diverge from their promises, and
- renewed encouragement from the United States, Jordan’s biggest ally and aid donor.
*A partner of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).