Jordan Is No Egypt
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 - 08:58 AM
The Jordanian king’s recent dismissal of the Prime Minister triggered dramatic statements by the press, asking “is Jordan next?” While the political change in Jordan seems to fit into the narrative of Tunisia and Egypt inspiring protests all over the Middle East, in reality, the change is a regular part of Jordanian politics.
Ex-Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s has been in his position for about a year and a half, which is actually a standard length of time for any one person to be a Prime Minister in Jordan. The media is making it seem like a dramatic event occurred, when this change is actually all standard procedure.
Not one person I spoke to in Jordan was surprised about the change of government—in fact, there were murmurings that Rifai was going to be dismissed even before the Tunisian protests because he was a very unpopular Prime Minister. News headlines that the king has sacked the entire government admittedly seem shocking when out of context. Dismissing all the ministers is also standard protocol whenever a Prime Minister leaves office.
Even the protests that were held in Jordan were 100 percent peaceful and completely non-disruptive. They were held on the weekends by a relatively small number of people. The participants were primarily demonstrating against higher prices and the Prime Minister. Protests are a normal part of the political landscape in Jordan. The truth is, I have faced more disruption to my day-to-day life in New York City when the United Nations General Assembly is in session.
Yes, there is tension and frustration amongst Jordanians. And yes, people have been protesting in the streets, but their demands are for reform, not revolution. It feels like Jordan has the flu, a perfectly normal thing for any country to go through, but rumors have spread that Jordan’s suffering from a terminal cancer, and I find myself constantly explaining the difference to people.
I don’t mean to belittle the suffering of Jordanian people. In fact, there are some similarities between Jordan and Egypt and that should not be ignored. People in Jordan, like in Egypt, have been suffering through widespread unemployment and rising prices. They have stood by as a muddled election process made them feel voiceless. But Jordanians still firmly believe in the monarchy and in the way the country has been run.
Egypt’s instability caused Jordanians to worry about what Jordan might look like in the future if reforms don’t happen now. Through their protests, they are trying to prevent Jordan from becoming Egypt in the future, but by no stretch of the imagination do they think that Jordan looks like Egypt now.
Tala Al-Husry is a Jordanian freelance producer and journalist living in Amman, Jordan. She went to New York University and previously interned at WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.