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Jordan: The elation of victory has clouded our political judgment

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Eng. Saleem Al Batayneh

Despite the strained relationship between certain political parties and the state, the realm of Jordanian political thought still struggles to define the concept of political opposition within our political system. The prevailing perception between the state and its critics and dissenters remains one of intersectionality, evident on all fronts. In my view, this necessitates a higher level of understanding and realization in order to foster political equilibrium and cultivate new elites that may contribute something meaningful or lead to a new political discourse.

The state’s engagement with clear opposition through well-established frameworks and methods is undoubtedly crucial to ensuring regime stability and minimizing the risks of chaos and sudden upheavals. A thorough examination of history reveals that the key to success in any political endeavour lies in mastering the appropriate timing for action. Ill-considered decisions can swiftly transform into significant problems that afflict us in an instant. It is important to recognize that all democratic experiences around the world emphasize that a weak parliamentary opposition and an overly powerful government, staunchly loyal to the state, will upset the necessary balance in the political arena.

However, many Jordanians harbour questions concerning the pragmatism and double standards demonstrated by the state in its dealings with certain parties. During the recent period, these parties faced a wave of hostility that escalated to the point of demonization and exclusion, catching even the most pessimistic observers off guard.

Perhaps adopting a different perspective will enable us to ask more probing questions and comprehend this double standard, which arises from the limited vision and discourse of certain officials, now a prominent characteristic of an entrenched and systematic policy. While numerous governments worldwide have employed double standards to suppress their political opponents, it often backfires.

The principle that should guide us is consistency, where the yardstick remains constant and unchanging for all that it measures. Displaying bias toward one party while depriving another jeopardizes the overarching notion of justice and leads to a backlash, generates conflicts, and creates an environment conducive to the rise of radical movements that our country can ill afford.

It is evident that the state’s crisis lies in its management, the absence of vision and decisiveness in reforming its current state, and its continued involvement in perpetuating exclusion. These factors only serve to widen the divide with public opinion, which is witnessing worrisome bottlenecks. The state apparatus has failed to effectively promote the mechanisms of party action and the political reform system.

In any case, a close examination of the political party landscape in Jordan reveals an uncomfortable and sometimes hostile sentiment among Jordanians towards them. This is evident from the results of the latest survey conducted by the Center for Research and Studies at the University of Jordan.

If we focus on the conventional approach we use to gauge the presence of political parties in the Jordanian arena, we find that most of them are weak, with limited reach and lacking inclusivity due to the lack of acceptance from the people.

So, what is it that concerns the state about certain parties, leading to their exclusion from the political equation? In reality, the chaotic situation has not provided us with a calm climate to truly understand what has transpired. What we have witnessed is nothing more than a frivolous and naive perception based on illusions, and it may have been orchestrated from behind the scenes. This falls under the category of immaturity, which has been exacerbated by the dominance of authoritarian thinking and the irrationality that has infiltrated Jordanian political thought.

The demonization of parties is a malicious and totalitarian idea that is rejected, as it aims to deviate from the path of reform. All popular surveys indicate that we are heading towards a reality that may undermine reform efforts and sacrifice the traditional approach of soft containment and venting policy that Jordan has relied on in its internal affairs. Despite the occasional ambiguity and opposition, the containment policy in Jordan has remained a consistent approach implemented by the state in times of need.

The theory of containment was developed by the American historian and diplomat George F. Kennan (1904-2005), who first used it in an article published in the renowned American magazine Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1947 during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. This policy advocates a defensive approach aimed at preventing countries from falling under the influence of Russia (the Soviet Union) at that particular point in time.

To be more explicit, the actors both within and outside Jordan failed to realize that excluding any political party from the political equation through active measures would lead to the rise of disgruntled factions and the rallying of all supporters and affiliates of those parties around other highly popular parties in the Jordanian public.

Tyranny, stubbornness, and an individualistic approach to opinion are blind forces that run counter to the flow of history. They represent a political structure that is difficult to eradicate except through a change in mindset. We see what you do not see and hear what you do not hear. It appears that the skill and experience of the deep state in the policy of containment has lost its strategic edge and most of its fundamental justifications.

Al Batayneh is a prominent Jordanian writer and former member of the Jordanian Parliament.