By Nermeen Murad
Prime Minister-designate Awn Khasawneh has been cautiously welcomed by the political actors in Jordan, and by Jordanians in general, in recognition of the characteristics he is believed to embody as a legal expert who has been in and out of senior public positions without being tarnished by rumours of corruption or mismanagement of his public authority. Equally, he is seen as a figure of consensus among Jordanians, regardless of their origin, economic standing or political beliefs and convictions.
His choice as prime minister, therefore, has come as an indicator of the acceptance of the demands for real reform in the Kingdom, which wanted to see the most senior executive post in the country go to a man of professionalism and integrity, and one who would view all Jordanians as equal citizens and therefore equal beneficiaries of its opportunities and benefits.
However, it must be recognised that he remains only one man, and in many ways, a man who has had limited experience in handling the pressures of political wrangling and haggling in Jordan. To stay the path of reform in Jordan requires an unparallelled consistency in the pursuit of this objective and tenacity in the commitment to legislative reform. This is especially important at this stage because we all witnessed a trend with the previous government where legislative reform was used as a tool to legitimate political gain for one side over another.
But this objective, which Jordanians recognise is within the grasp and expertise as well as primary mandate of Premier Khasawneh, will not be achieved easily, not only because of the complex and quite large legislative review process that it would take, but also because he will be fought at every step of the way by anti-reformists who stand to lose their privilege if this reform is successfully translated into legislation.
The change at the helm of the executive authority, therefore, must be consolidated with change at all levels of government, so that the premier will be supported by a team that can share with him the imminent tasks of dealing with political pressure, containing and addressing the crises of confidence that will necessary accompany any serious push for reform, handle the financial sector with the right balance between fiscal responsibility and social empathy, exercise executive responsibility with transparency and a sense of accountability, and above all respect, in order to safeguard the rights of all Jordanians at all times.
The first test of the new premier’s understanding of all these responsibilities will be the makeup of his government. Is every man and woman in that government the absolute and recognised master of that responsibility? Is every man and woman chosen committed to the same collective objective? Were they interviewed and reinterviewed, and were they asked to present a vision of the road ahead, rooted in past experiences and accomplishments?
The answer must be yes to all these questions, and more, because at this stage of our nation’s evolution nothing less would do.
We look to the new government, when it is finally formed, to draw a plan for its sustainability and the sustainability of its decisions and processes. We don’t ask it to do this by becoming sucked in the political bartering game and appeasement of influential forces at the expense of their declared objective, because we already know that that strategy has rarely - if ever - kept a government in place long enough to have impact.
We ask the government to ensure sustainability by keeping its eye on the pulse of the people and addressing their demands and aspirations with sensitivity, respect and transparency. The people of Jordan are patient, mature at foremost, and seeking stability and security. They can be trusted not to rock the boat if the boat works equally diligently to stay afloat.
24 October 2011