As days of protest against austerity draw hundreds, security forces show an iron fist. The crisis highlights the country’s weak political institutions. Some fear criminal and jihadist infiltrations. The political class must be renewed and economic and social reforms must be implemented.
Amman (AsiaNews) – The atmosphere in Jordan is tense and things could get worse as hundreds of people continue their protest in the streets. What is more, old problems have been compounded by an unprecedented fragility of the kingdom’s political institutions, this according to Amer Al Sabaileh, a Jordanian scholar who spoke to AsiaNews about recent demonstrations in Amman.
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz “has shown himself to be weak and incapable. The royal entourage is not up to it nor are the heads of the services. There have been disturbing signs for some time, but they were treated superficially."
This has forced Jordanian authorities to deploy hundreds of anti-riot police in the streets of the capital, with activists and demonstrators urged to remain within the law.
For their part, protesters intend to continue their action against austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The protest has begun in early June only to fizzle out until recently.
A judicial source said authorities have detained several people for chanting slogans against King Abdullah, a first in the history of the country. In fact, demonstrations are not only targeting policies or the government but also the main institutions of the state.
Reacting to the situation, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat warned against violence. “There are those who want to sow destruction ... We must safeguard Jordan’s stability and security,” she said.
However, dissatisfaction is widespread across the country. Many Jordanians say the government, which faces a record public debt of around billion and desperately needs to raise revenue, is eroding the disposable incomes of poorer and middle-class Jordanian.
For Al Sabaileh, "The government is no longer the issue but the person who appoints the prime minister”.
“Anger has been slowly simmering but the authorities have reacted with an unprecedented use of force. They brought in Bedouin units, which had not been seen since the 1989 revolution.”
“Not even during the Arab Spring was there such a violent response, and this shows the incapacity of political leaders to understand what is going on.”
People are "desperate" and there is a firm belief that "this system is unable to deal with the problem". And "King Abdullah is paying a high price for his alliance with certain circles none of whom understand the real extent of the challenges. This is one of the reasons anti-monarchy slogans can be heard during the protests.”
For now, “This is still a domestic issue.” Things are not bad enough “to elicit the intervention of regional players either for or against the establishment.”
In addition, “we should also not forget that there are protests all around the world and that they are liable to criminal or terrorist infiltration.” In Jordan, “there is a jihadist risk and extremist (Islamic) groups could exploit the situation."
Jordan "is a closed, isolated country that has not been able to produce and renew itself," Al Sabaileh notes. It “lacks a serious political class, capable of dialogue. It is at a crossroads and in need of change, first of all at the political level to bear fruit at the economic and institutional levels."
Solutions must be found that can have an "immediate effect on people's lives. We need to go from a dependent economy to an independent one. We need development plans in agriculture, transport, infrastructures.”
"Jordan is strategically located the Middle East and must find a way to exploit this, including developments in the energy sector. It must attract again Chinese, European and American investment. We need to overcome immobility and if this does not happen the crisis is destined to get worse."