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Jordan: Debating the Country's Leadership

Blogging and Twitter conversations in Jordan have continued on from Jordan's Day of Anger on Friday January 14th, 2011, and subsequent protests sponsored by Islamists, as well as protests held outside the Tunisian Embassy in Amman. These events had demonstrators demanding the resignation of Jordan's Prime Minister Samir Rifai, and demanding more attention paid to high prices, high unemployment, and low wages. These events continued to build with labor protests on January 17th.

These events are widely seen to have begun with Jordan's lower house of Parliament giving the government a record vote of confidence, with 111 of 119 members voting in favor. These events led many Jordanians to question the legitimacy of both the Parliament and the royally-appointed government; according to some, any vote with more than 90% in favor of giving confidence just demonstrated that only loyalists were represented in Jordanian systems of governance.

Meanwhile, Jordan has experienced many events underscoring identity issues of tribalism and between Jordanians of Palestinian origin and those of Bedouin origin. And many of this week's protests have been inspired by Tunisian protests that led to Tunisian President Ben Ali leaving the country.

In light of all these events, Jordanians have been discussing the future of Prime Minister Rifai's government, as well as their trust in the Jordanian Parliament. Some, such as Fadi Qutaishat, called for the recall of Rifai:

“We are calling for the departure of Samir Rifai's govt and a govt of national unity, not a govt of Amman corporations”

Mohammad Yousef reported of earlier protests:

Protesters focus on the fact PM Samir Al-Rifai used to manage Dubai Capital holding, labeling him as a capitalist #ReformJO

Others were skeptical that replacing Rifai would accomplish anything, referring to cycles of appointments and re-appointments, often within the same families. Ali Abunimah humorously asked:

Jordan protestors calling for PM to be replaced are foolish. Don't they know Samir Rifai's son is not old enough yet?

Majd Yousef wrote:

lets assume that the PM stepped down, let me recall when was it the last time we had New minister! Diff PM same ministers #AngryJordan

For Mahmoud Lattouf, Rifai was the wrong target:

I find it weird that people demand the resignation of AlRifai Government, they should first demand dissolving the fake Parliament! #ReformJo

As protesters chanted outside the parliament building, the lower house debated lowering the criminal penalty for adultery. This juxtaposition brought more ire upon the parliament from Tololy:

Important to keep the timing of media coverage of “adultery” penalty in mind: diverting attention from protests? Keeping people busy? #JO

While Mohammad Yousef despaired:

the summary of #Jordan-ian chronicles “isn’t the Parliament part of the government?” #ReformJO #DamnManThatsSAD

Others simply blamed systemic political and economic woes. Omar Tahboub wrote:

When govts subsidize prices, the wealthy benefit most because they consume most. Not a smart way to help the less fortunate #AngryJordan

From 7iber.com, Mohannad blogged his political opinion that what Jordan needs is not resignations, which constitutes merely a “scapegoat” but systemic reform.

The names of the people are irrelevant at this stage. What we have is not a persons problem but rather a systematic one. One where the choices of the few, historically, created a framework for corruption, hereditary superiority and unaccountability…The solution is us. Jordan are us. We can be the framework for change.

Moving beyond rhetoric, urgent steps to rebuild trust are needed now more than ever. Show us the money. Lay it all out. Stop living a lavish life while the majority of our country are struggling to make ends meet…Take responsibility for the mistakes made. Define corruption clearly so that we can all be on the same page. Being a public servant and a businessperson is a toxic combination. Create a strike force headed by trusted public figures and empower them to attack corruption at all level, and I mean ALL levels. No one, should be immune, NO ONE. Redistribute the power and most importantly remove the power to dissolve the parliament.

Rather than blame anyone Aiah Fwares simply tweeted:

Why do I love sleeping?! There's no government in my dreams! #ReformJo Good night world!

Jordanians were resolute, though, in their support of the Hashemite monarchy, even while calling for reforms. Upon speculation of an overthrow, Naseem Tarawnah bluntly replied:

Def not happening

Support for the monarchy extended also to defending Queen Rania. After an Egyptian sent a tweet suggesting that Queen Rania and her husband would be the next rulers to be ousted from office, Lara Hadi responded in outrage:

We love our Queen … and if #AngryJordan was anything, it was a day for Jordanian’s to vent out and express themselves. Yes Jordan is a poor country, true we do have corruption and unemployment, but we don’t have people arrested left and right and tortured, we have leaders, working for a better Jordan, for today and for the future, we have a democratically elected government for God’s sake…

To follow Jordan's ongoing conversations, follow #ReformJo and #AngryJordan

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