August 3, 2021

In Jordan, the feverish aspiration for a new social contract

By Laure Stephan

Posted today at 01:20

From the roof of a building in Hay Al-Tafayleh in Amman, we can see the city center below, where the young people of this working-class neighborhood like to go and breathe, for lack of space in their alleys; and opposite, at a distance, two doors leading to the royal court.

It is in front of these gates enclosing trees that the inhabitants regularly descend to demonstrate, β€œTo demand work. The most rebellious are sometimes hired, the others persist ”, says Mohamed Al-Rbehat, used to this exercise. At 28, this father lives off odd jobs, despite his diploma. Leaning against the water tanks, other young men draw up their book of grievances: unemployment, cost of living, lack of political representation … Bilal, Asem and Ahmad are convinced: social anger is mounting, relentless.

The Nachayiat association distributes basic necessities for the most deprived families, in the district of Hay Al-Tafayleh, in Amman (Jordan), on May 2, 2021.

So many others make the same observation in Amman. It is certainly not new: movements of socio-political demands have shaken the kingdom several times for ten years. But the context has changed. Various social forces, such as trade unions, have been banned from the public arena, stoking resentment.

In addition, there are restrictions linked to Covid-19, such as the curfew, which began at 7 p.m. for many months: “With this crisis, people have become severely impoverished”, sighs Souhair Saoud, who heads a women’s charity association in Hay Al-Tafayleh, providing activities for children and food aid.

“Bad political choices”

Finally, the “Hamza affair” – the accusations brought at the beginning of April by King Abdullah II against his half-brother Hamza, of hatching a plot with the help of an unidentified foreign country – has left its mark. Prince Hamza is a thorn in the side of King Abdullah II who, to consolidate his power, had withdrawn his title of crown prince for the benefit of his son Hussein.

However, Hamza has cultivated links with the powerful Jordanian tribes, the base of the monarchy, some of whose leaders have taken the lead in demonstrations against corruption in recent months, the current socio-economic conditions having severely affected them, making the authorities feverish.

No substantiated evidence has been provided. A rude maneuver, for those who dispute the official version; the foretaste of a possible destabilization, for those who adhere to the thesis of the monarch.

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The confusion worsened the crisis of confidence in the institutions, already displayed during the legislative elections of 2020, with a participation rate of less than 30%. Reforms were as often promised as they were not materialized. The frequently expressed opinion is that the kingdom needs a new social contract.

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