Jordan's King Abdullah has sacked his government following protests as thousands marched in Amman to protest rising prices and unemployment and to demand that the prime minister, Samir Rifai step down. Prince Hassan of Jordan reacts to the news and talks about the future of the Mideast and the view of Egypt from Jordan. Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland also weighs in.
We also spoke with Prince Hassan before he heard the news that the King had called for his government to resign:
John Hockenberry: Your Royal Highness, what happened this morning in Amman and is the king listening to what we in the journalism world call the Arab Street – perhaps irresponsibly, but that seems to be what’s going on here.
His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan: As you know, I'm not in public office and my comments would be, as I said earlier, that the winds of change are definitely affecting the equation between civil society and government. Democracy cannot exist without civil society and civil society cannot exist without the population that has the will and the capacity to act in defense of its values and to chase its dreams. So I think that any government, any prime minister, any head of state would do well to recognize that engagement and participation in public life and in support of civil society is indispensable to democracy. Now the new prime minister has not formed his new cabinet yet, but I think he would do well to take heed of the need to recognize the sovereignty of the citizens.
JH: Is your suggestion then to the king Your Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan, that Jordan should embrace a constitutional monarchy and that the government and the prime minister be elected.
Prince Hassan: Well Jordan has a constitutional monarchy, the question is how soon will it be for this constitutional monarchy to start recognizing that it's within the constitution that the king - our constitutional is built on the Belgian constitutional lines - it is within the government, within the constitution, for the head of state, the king, symbolic head of state, to appoint prime minister as head of government on the basis of the elections, which happened once in Jordan’s history in 1966 and now we have 26 parties, so I think that the whole business of developing a coalition and recognizing that the growth, economic growth can only take place with equity, that we’re going to make and trust between people, business industries and government.
JH: I sense your impatience – are you calling for elections for the prime minister and that that determines the government in Jordan, not the King’s appointment?
Prince Hassan: I think ideally.
Celeste Headlee: Well your royal highness, you know we’ve heard reports of Egyptians being inspired of these protests by Tunisia, we’ve heard of Tunisia inspiring protesters in Yemen. We spoke to a man earlier who said he hopes that this same spirit for democracy spreads to Libya, and with this news coming out of Jordan, I’m wondering if you see what John called the Arab Street is this the winds of change you referred to and whether it could actually spread to a number of countries throughout the region.
Prince Hassan: Absolutely. I think it could well do that. But of course if we go back to business as usual and changes in government are supposed to tow the stability and security line, the extent of engagement and involvement.
JH: Shibley Tahami, do you have a question for His Royal Highness Prince Hassan?
Shibley Tahami: When you’re looking at the events in Egypt and what the Egyptians did, they were two steps too late every time. The President’s speech, Mubarak, really didn’t get a sense of what was happening. And obviously leaders get so out of touch with the public that they react too late. If he had announced appointment of vice president even just a month ago, it would have been much different. Is there something now that you think the king should do and say, “Look, you should have done it yesterday. You should do it today because after Friday it will be too late.” Is there something specific the king can do now to anticipate?
Prince Hassan: Well, we haven’t seen the letters of appointment of the new cabinet or the new policy statements of the cabinet, but I agree with you that we are two steps behind, which is part of the problem of the Arab image, which is about living reality. So I think what needs to be done is to emphasize the legal empowerment of the poor, the state will develop a concept of the equal opportunities for all, and a member of the legal fund to report commission representative recommendations, Madeleine Albright headed that commission, and none of our recommendations seemed to get through to the Arab mind, in office that is. So we need a change of mindset.