Jordanians have lost faith in Parliament. Can government restore it?

Once revered as the “people’s house,” Jordan’s Parliament is now being dismissed by some as a “house of embarrassment.” A reminder why was a mass brawl last week amid a argue over constitutional amendments that featured punches, body slams, and a house speaker ordering lawmakers to “shut up!”

With faith in democracy and its institutions under siege around the world, and authoritarians flexing their own political muscles, voters in Jordan say they have given up on an institution that simply rubber-stamps legislation submitted by the king-appointed government.

Why We Wrote This

In the kingdom of Jordan, Parliament is a once-revered democratic institution. To restore its stature, is it enough to enhance representation without giving the “people’s house” a stronger voice?

A royal committee is rushing reforms by Parliament to rebuild Jordanians’ trust in the system and regain their faith in the elected body. Among them are steps to restore national parties’ representation and raise the voices of women and young people.

But with them have also come a large number of constitutional amendments that activists and legal experts say have gutted Parliament’s powers. The amendments have passed by Parliament this week with little discussion.

“They have stripped Parliament of all its authority,” says Rula al-Hroub, leader of a center-left party and a former member of Parliament. “As a political party, why should I run in the next elections? What is already left for political parties?”

AMMAN, Jordan

Increasingly, Jordanians say they think little of Parliament, if they think of it at all.

Once revered as the “people’s house,” Parliament is now being dismissed by some as a “house of embarrassment.”

A reminder why was a mass brawl last week during a argue over constitutional amendments that featured punches, body slams, headlocks, and a house speaker ordering lawmakers to “shut up!” It gave another black eye to an institution seen as less representative, or applicable, than in the past.

Why We Wrote This

In the kingdom of Jordan, Parliament is a once-revered democratic institution. To restore its stature, is it enough to enhance representation without giving the “people’s house” a stronger voice?

Two decades of gerrymandering and electoral engineering by governments eager to suppress dissent have filled the legislature with MPs hand-picked for loyalty but lacking ideology or policies.

“Our Parliament is a sideshow; we don’t hear from them when it matters, and when we do hear from them, we wished we hadn’t,” says Bassam, a former military officer who asked that his complete name not be used. “Our representatives don’t represent anyone but themselves.”

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