Monday, April 17, 2006

elections and national character

Opps, this one got lost as a draft. I forgot to post it.

In Jordan, Abd al-Khalil Mu'aytah says that any new election law that counters the "Jordanian national character" will be refused, alluding to Jordan's moderating and pivotal role in regional and international conflicts .

What exactly is the Jordanian national character and what kind of election law might threaten it? The current election law gives unfair representation to tribal and west Jordanian interests, so what is he talking about?

The election law is currently the most contentious issue in an effort at widespread and comprehensive reform in Jordan. The country recently published an ambitious national agenda that seeks reform in a number of key sectors of Jordanian social, economic and political life. A number of activists, even skeptics, say the national agenda has a lot of good points in it. The main concern is the election law, which remains the most significant outstanding issue.

Words like national character are usually used to describe a sitution where one group doesn't want to some degree of power to another group. The most recent use of the term was in Iraq, where Kurdish hopes for independence were called a threat to the Arab character of Iraq. Maybe if past governments acknowledged that there is also a significant Kurdish character to Iraq they would be so eager to split off and form their own country.

I'll take a guess here that what Mu'aytah's talking about is a law that allows a more accurate representation of the population, roughly 70% of which are from Palestinian refugees that have come to Jordan in successive waves since the creation of the state of Israel. Jordan has done the best of all Arab countries in assimilating Palestinian refugees, giving them citizenship and other full national rights. But many western Jordanians still don't accept Palestinians as anything more than inconvenient guests.

Jordan is stable and you can't knock it for security, but this identity crisis remains unresolved. Someday it's going to rear its ugly head. I hope people are ready to deal with it responsibly. But citing national character is a pretty way of saying you don't want to acknowledge the fact that your vision of national identity might not be the only one.


Post a Comment

<< Home