In the shadow of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, social mobilizations and political developments in Jordan have prompted a significant amount of attention on the Kingdom. Below are the five most common questions I’ve received from both friends and reporters as well as composites of my responses.
(1) Will we see in Jordan the type of upheaval we are witnessing in Tunisia or Egypt?
To date, what has happened in Jordan does not compare to what is happening in other parts of the Arab world neither in terms of degree (i.e., the number of people out in the streets) nor in terms of nature (i.e., the types of demands being made). Jordan shares many of the structural features and governing practices that have inspired the mass mobilizations in both Egypt and Tunisia. These are primarily authoritarian systems of rule that offer little in the way of accountability and civil liberties as well as a neoliberal economic development strategy that has disempowered the average citizen vis-à-vis meeting her basic needs. However, whereas demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia, not to mention Algeria and Yemen, have been focused on regime change, protests in Jordan over the past four weeks have called for changes in the government (which is appointed by the regime) as well as serious (as opposed to cosmetic) reforms that would fundamentally address the political and economic problems facing Jordanian society. Is it possible that mobilizations in Jordan could develop, both in terms of size and demands, into what has transpired in Tunisia and Egypt? It is certainly possible but not very likely barring some major contingencies. However, it should be noted that public slogans surrounding the protests as well as the specific demands being advanced through various public letters are shifting from calls for the downfall of the government to calls for specific political and economic reforms. Again though, these demands for reform are nowhere approaching calls for regime change.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.