East Bank Jordanians demonstrate as King announces plans for reforms
Pro-reform demonstrations took place in various part of Jordan including Amman, Irbid, Karak, Ma'an, and Dhiban district in Madaba. In the southern city of Tafileh, protesters took to the streets for the fourth consecutive week, calling for political, economic, and constitutional reform, including the ousting of the prime-minister Marouf Bakhit.
The pro-reform protesters criticized Tafileh dignitaries, who recently visited the Royal Hashemite Court to "apologize" for the movement taking place in their city. They chanted slogans against the dignitaries, accusing them of attempting to obstruct their peaceful pro-reform movement. The King later visited Tafileh and there were news reports that his motorcade was attacked by stones and empty bottles, although government officials denied this.
The King had previously made a speech in which he promised that he foresees future governments being appointed by the parliamentary majority, based on political parties. Governments are currently appointed by the King, and seek the confidence of the elected parliament, which is almost always granted with relative ease.
June 10-15, 2011 Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
Although mass demonstrations have not materialized in Jordan, as in other parts of the Arab World, rising tensions amongst the Jordanians of East Bank origins poses a serious challenge to the government. East Bankers, who unlike the majority of the population which descends from the West Bank, now part of the Palestinian Authority and which was once part of Jordan, form the backbone of the Jordanian regime. Their tribal loyalty is essential in ensuring the stability of the country. West Bankers, on the other hand, are not tribal and are highly politicized. East Bankers tend to follow their tribal leaders, who are traditionally staunchly loyal to the regime and are therefore seen as less of a threat on the political front. The fact that tensions have risen amongst the East Bankers present a serious challenge to the regime in general.
Previous times East Bankers led public dissent include the mass protests include protests in 1989, that led to the sacking of the government of Zaid Rifai, father of the former prime-minister Samir, Rifai, who was sacked by the King in February 2011. The grievances of the current protests and those of 1989 are almost identical, and economically-focused. The protests of 1989 ultimately led to what is often described as one of the freest elections in Jordan, with the Muslim Brotherhood becoming the biggest political party in parliament. However, elements of the current protestors appear to blame West Bank Jordanians for some of the country’s economic woes. Although this will unlikely lead to sectarian conflict, it nonetheless presents another challenge the regime will need to address in order to ensure that such tensions do not lead to street violence.
A fund of almost US $20 million announced to help economic development in Tafila may provide short-term relief on the economic front. However, with the country struggling under rising economic debt, and accusations of widespread corruption, other parts of the country, are in need of substantial increased spending.
The King has also mitigated much of the political tensions by announcing that future governments will be elected and formed based on parliamentary part politics. However, no date for such a dramatic shift has been made. The key test would be the election law that would be used to elect parliament.
The protestors are likely to continue their demands of the ousting of the Bakhit government. There is an increased likelihood that the King make dissolve parliament and call for early elections. The sooner this happens, accompanied by changes to the electoral law, the less likelihood of the protests turning into mass demonstrations.