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The toxin political money: A formidable challenge

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Eng. Saleem Al-Batayneh

In our ever-evolving lexicon, a relatively recent addition stands out – “political money.” This term, although lacking a comprehensive definition, carries profound implications for the political landscape. It creeps into every crevice of the political process, casting a long shadow on our democratic institutions.

The story of political money is labyrinthine, too intricate to cover in a single article. It remains a sealed black box, its contents off-limits to prying eyes.

During the last blessed month of Ramadan, I found myself engrossed in just two TV series: the Egyptian “Jaafar Al-Omda” and the American political drama “House of Cards” on Netflix, a gripping 13-episode saga laden with accolades. This series delves deep into the political machinations of Washington, forcing viewers to ponder a fundamental question: What holds greater sway, money or power? And which begets the other?

These questions bring to mind the words of the Slovenian philosopher and critic Slavoj Žižek, renowned as the “most dangerous philosopher in the West.” Žižek remarked, “If you want to corrupt society, all you have to do is open the door to the unholy union of politics, money, and power. This trinity, once consummated, paves the way for corruption, threatening national security from all angles. It is an integral part of the general societal decay, a relationship tantamount to a full-fledged crime. Money knows no borders and can construct political influence across them.”

It appears that politics in the Arab world, too, is ensnared in the web of money’s influence. Today, it has become an expensive affair, where money wields unprecedented clout, posing a grave threat to political reform. Political money has assumed a central role in shaping reforms, essentially becoming the engine driving nearly every facet of political life. It now determines competitiveness in elections and can alter outcomes, sometimes even subverting the will of the electorate.

Money, indeed, opens doors – fortified or tightly sealed, its presence in politics presents a formidable challenge. Its infiltration desiccates political action, dismantles laboratories of policy, and distorts political discourse. The nation transforms into a fragile edifice, susceptible to being blown away like a house of cards. Money establishes lobbies that mould public opinion, weakening citizens’ influence in proportion to its own ascendance.

The corrosive effects of money on political life transcend stable countries and reach even those opposing established regimes. With money, everything becomes a commodity – blindness, deafness, silence, collusion, and even the sacred votes of citizens. Its malevolence peaks when primary positions are bought and sold clandestinely.

In the Arab world, political equilibrium often stems not from a social contract but from the power of money and the acquisition of debts. Delicate democracies, unprotected and vulnerable, have strayed from their linguistic ideals due to political money. They allow unknown or known funds to flow into party coffers and election campaigns.

In Jordan, despite our recognition of the pivotal role of the royal institution in maintaining equilibrium and rectifying electoral missteps, we must proceed with caution. The snares of political money are more potent than ever. Funding in the hands of any party grants it the power to maneuver through political tensions. The state must nurture political awareness among citizens, enabling them to be effective agents of change and immune to the corrupting influence of political money. The voter, a fundamental pillar, must be shielded from its pernicious grasp. Separating money from politics is the linchpin of political integrity.

One of the gravest challenges plaguing the Jordanian political system is the erosion of electoral credibility and essential mechanisms. To reinvigorate our democracy, we must reclaim the integrity of our elections.

Cleaning up politics necessitates a relentless commitment to ensuring that money never eclipses the voice of the people.

Al-Batayenh was a former member of the Jordanian Parliament