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Jordan at the Crossroads: Navigating the Void Left by a Declining Elite

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Eng. Saleem Al Batayneh

In today’s global landscape, a pressing question resonates: Who shapes public opinion and guides societies towards the future? This question holds particular significance for Arab societies, where the erosion of elites has left a void, causing them to relinquish their roles, isolate themselves, and merely observe the unfolding events. They seem content with applause while trailing behind the herd.

A recent German study, published on the JECA website and affiliated with the German GIGA-Hamburg Institute for Global and Area Studies, delves into the reasons behind the unprecedented decline of Arab elites in recent years. The study points to their reliance on political rents, privileges, and the incessant struggle for positions. Unfortunately, the study characterizes Arab elites as living in a state of madness rather than exhibiting political wisdom.

Traditionally, elites play a crucial role in shaping states, fostering political trust, and driving societal progress. However, discussing a genuine local political elite in Jordan becomes a nuanced task, as existing elites, including both the ruling class and the opposition, lack the visionary leadership necessary to propel Jordan forward. The absence of a strong political foundation hinders the prospects of a true renaissance.

Historical evidence indicates that every stage has its young and old, each with its unique conditions. Examining the crises faced by Jordanian elites – political, economic, cultural, and more – reveals complex issues rooted not in circumstantial factors but in years of squandered political and developmental time. Many elites have withdrawn from the political arena and ideology, grappling with the aftermath of shocks that have rendered them impotent and bankrupt.

Even tribal symbols, once influential in shaping political life, have lost their sway. The struggle for power positions within clans has evolved into a negative phenomenon, further exacerbating the crisis.

Let’s be candid: politics in Jordan is stagnating. The political function has been assassinated, and political imagination has succumbed to lethargy and alienation. This has led to the collapse of structures, creating an imbalance in political and economic players. Elites have been replaced by influencers, content creators, and trivial pursuits. The epicenter of political action has shifted from the public to the virtual space, turning politics into a superficial charade and secret gossip. Conflicts between ousted elites and emerging political tyrants have disrupted the political landscape, causing unemployment and destabilizing the political sphere.

Political maturity usually heralds positive change, but in Jordan, the situation is unique. The intricate web of political relationships, mixing friends, relatives, and clients, sets Jordan apart. This blend, one of the world’s strangest, has given rise to a system where influence and money align against society.

Laws and regulations have been manipulated to consolidate their authority, transforming them into political oligarchies and feudal groups that enjoy the nation’s resources without contributing anything substantial.

The most perilous threat to political action is the entrenchment of players within the system indefinitely. A challenging phase marked by turmoil, disappointment, frustration, and decline has led to the fall of most elites, with the streets determining the trajectory. A profound review is imperative, demanding difficult decisions to break free from political tyranny. This includes creating new elites committed to change, fostering a new discourse that can guide Jordan towards a civil state, preserving the rights of all and fostering a long-awaited political life.

Eng. Al Batayneh was a member of the Jordanian Parliament.