During a Gathering with National Public Figures

Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II

During a Gathering with National Public Figures

23 October 2012
(Translated from Arabic)

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate

My brothers and sisters,

I would like to welcome you all to your home, the home of all Jordanians.

I wanted to meet with you today for a sincere talk at this particular stage in our beloved country’s history, in order to highlight our reform roadmap.

I fully realise, my brothers and sisters, that every modernisation and change initiative is accompanied by anxiety and uncertainty. This is natural. Popular demands over the last year and a half have focused on enhancing citizens’ rights to participate effectively in the decisions that impact them and their future, and I am committed to guaranteeing this right for all.

The trajectory of the political reform roadmap under which this phase was launched was agreed upon a year and a half ago. It included constitutional reforms to make the people a true partner in the political process, and its most notable components were the Constitutional Court, the Independent Elections Commission, laws governing political life such as the Elections and Political Parties Laws, in addition to holding early elections, which will bring a new Parliament and pave the way to piloting parliamentary government.

Here, I would like to assure you that our country is on the right track towards the reform we aspire to, and I would like to reiterate that we will have a new Parliament by the new year, following parliamentary elections that will be conducted with the highest degree of integrity and transparency.

And as I stated before, my message to you and to all political parties and forces is this: If you want to change Jordan for the better, there is a chance, and that chance is through the upcoming elections, and there is a way, and that way is through the next Parliament.

As for those who want additional reforms or want to develop the Elections Law, they can work from under the dome of Parliament and through the ballot boxes, which are the true representative of the will of the people.

My brothers and sisters,

My responsibility, under our constitutional monarchy system, is to be committed to the outcomes that achieved consensus through our constitutional process and to respect the opinion of the majority, as I am for all segments of society, be it the ‘herak,’ the opposition, or the silent majority, and I regard them all as working in the service of our country.

It is citizens’ vote in this election that will determine the make-up of the next Parliament and the next parliamentary government, thus determining the policies and decisions that will affect the life of every citizen. Therefore, citizens must not allow anyone to deprive them of their right to vote and affect change.

Political parties and lists should organise themselves as quickly as possible, build their electoral platforms for the next four years and explain to voters what policies and additional reforms they seek. To cite a few examples:

  • How will candidates, political parties, and lists address the challenges of poverty and unemployment?
  • How will they tackle the challenges of debt and budget deficit?
  • What is the best tax reform?
  • How will they further develop the voting system?
  • How will they meet the water and energy challenges of Jordan?
  • How can the quality of services such as health, education and transport be improved?

For citizens have the right to get clear answers to these and many other questions, through practical programmes that are realistic and not just theoretical, so that voters can make the best choice at the ballot boxes. For the larger the participation, the greater will the change be.

The next Parliament is the gate to comprehensive reform. It is the institution constitutionally mandated to continue achieving true change and overcoming national challenges, by consolidating a democratic approach, the culture of dialogue and the highest standards of constructive debate.

My brothers and sisters,

It has become necessary to distinguish between national constructive opposition and positive ‘herak’, on the one hand, and negative opposition and ‘herak’, on the other hand, which do not serve the reform path, nor the country’s future.

Constructive opposition and positive ‘herak’ play a legitimate and needed role, while negative ‘herak’, with empty slogans and attempts to incite chaos and fitna (sedition) are rejected by Jordanians. We should always remember that catchy slogans are not the solution, and backward and radical intolerant mentalities cannot be trusted with the future of our children.

Let us pause and think of the slogans that have been raised against corruption. I agree with you on the need to counter corruption. Enormous efforts are being exerted to uproot and deter corruption, and cases are currently before the courts and the Anti-Corruption Commission. These institutions must be allowed enough time for justice to take its course.

But, regrettably, there is another category of such slogans, based on personalisation, defamation, slander, and prejudgment, which results into trial by public opinion at the expense of justice.

As for the budget deficit and public debt, let us remember that we used to receive oil from Iraq at subsidised prices until 2003, at less than US$30/barrel. Today, we buy oil at over US$100/barrel.

The increase in deficit and public debt was previously within reasonable ranges, rising annually as a result of steady rises in oil and food prices, the state’s initiatives to raise salaries and pensions to protect the purchasing power of our citizens, continue subsidies for some basic commodities, and invest in improving education and health services as well as infrastructure. These all contributed to a reasonable increase of debt in absolute terms.

But, in addition to all this, and over the past two years particularly, there was an unprecedented increase in debt and deficit due to disruptions in the supply of Egyptian gas, which cost us till now around US$4 billion in additional annual deficit and debt for the past two years. Even the support from our brothers in Saudi Arabia during the last year - and we are extremely grateful to them - barely covered the additional deficit resulting from the disruption in Egyptian gas supply in 2011.

Therefore, we have to be objective and uphold the truth when we interpret things, and be honest in our words.

We believe in the opposition’s right to be an active and genuine partner in the political process, steering away from opportunism and empty slogans, and from manipulating economic hardships and people’s sentiments. But no group is allowed to claim that they hold a monopoly over the truth and that they represent all Jordanians.

The opposition’s role, as I envisage it, is to have a vision and practical programmes, to participate in Parliament, so that it can carry out its legislative mandate and oversight role in monitoring parliamentary governments.

My brothers and sisters,

A small group of those in top decision-making posts, responsible for policies, programmes and temporary laws, some of whom have even benefitted from providing consultancy and legal services, we see them today criticise policies and decisions and defend their experiences and performances, although they are the ones who formulated, at their complete discretion, these same programmes, policies and laws that they are today criticising. So does this mean that when they are in a position of responsibility, everything is alright and rosy, but when they are out of these positions, everything becomes wrong and bleak?

Let us speak frankly today about some slogans raised by a limited number of protesters - “overthrow the regime” - and it is regrettable that some very limited number of the ‘herak’ protestors have raised this slogan. Let us pause and cross the t’s and dot the i’s.

First, what is the “regime”? The regime is the state in all its institutions and agencies, under the umbrella of the Constitution. The regime is the values and the principles these institutions and agencies are founded upon. The regime is also the cadres who operate such institutions, which actually encompass all segments and components of our Jordanian society. No one has a monopoly over the components of the state. The regime is the organisations and citizens. Every individual in this society is part of the regime. This country, which only relies on its people and their determination, has managed to overcome the impossible through unforgettable sacrifices. This Jordanian state is not the accomplishment of a single individual, or a single entity or party - it is the cumulative achievement of every Jordanian across generations.

If the intention behind these slogans was to undermine the Hashemite umbrella of this country, then let me be absolutely clear: Governing for us Hashemites was never at any point a gain that we sought, but rather a responsibility, a duty and a sacrifice that we have been carrying out in the service of this nation and in defence of its causes and interests – a cause to which we have offered many martyrs. Moreover, governing was never for us about holding a monopoly over authority, nor about power and its tools, but about supporting state institutions run by Jordanians from all segments of society, according to the provisions of our Constitution.

This is the path we have adhered to since the time of our great-grandfather, the founder of the nation, and to this very day.

As for me, personally, Abdullah ibn Al Hussein, I will continue true to this path. Being king to me is not a gain I seek, it is a responsibility, “for only to Allah belongs all dominion.” What I cherish the most is the honour of being a descendant of our forefather Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). After this honourable lineage and what it entails in terms of commitments, I am honoured to be a Jordanian and to share with this noble and genuine people their stances and great sacrifices. After this, comes my duty to shoulder my responsibilities and foster the interests of my people and my beloved country. Al Hussein, may God bless his soul, taught me and taught us all that pleasing God and serving this country are our sole purpose in this life. You all know that I am the son of the Jordan Armed Forces and the Arab Army - this Army that is made of all elements of our Jordanian society. In this Army, I have spent my youth, between Zarqa, Qatraneh, the Badia, and every other place in Jordan. Hence, I know my people, I have lived amongst them like one of them, I know their concerns, their ambitions and since the first day that I was honoured to serve in the Arab Army, I have dedicated myself to the service of my country, which deserves the best from each of us, and all that we can give.

My brothers and sisters,
Sons and daughters of the one large Jordanian family,

I call on you all to take part in the upcoming elections, so that we can achieve the desired change and reform, and to stand united in the face of those who try to undermine the achievements of the Jordanian state or threaten its unity, or thwart its progress, or jeopardise the country’s security and stability.

The path is open in front of all, including those in the opposition, to be in the next Parliament. The path of political participation remains open to all segments of society, to all those who are truly concerned about Jordan’s interests, in deeds and not only in words. I’m certain that the future that we seek for our people and future generations will be bright, God willing.

My brothers and sisters,

As we are about to celebrate Eid Al Adha, I would like to congratulate you, the sons and daughters of our beloved Jordan, on this blessed occasion.

Kullu ‘am wantum bikheir.

God’s peace and mercy be upon you.