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JORDAN - Leadership Transition.

Three important countries in the Middle East - Jordan, Morocco and Syria - have all undergone leadership transitions since 1999. So far, the transitions have been relatively smooth with no political upheavals or signs of instability. The new leaders, all of whom were educated in the West, have received the backing of the US, whether overtly or tacitly, and all appear likely to move along lines that will further the interests of Pax Americana. The next three issues of FAP will study the way in which the new rulers of these countries have handled the succession, and their prospects in the years ahead.

The kingdom of Jordan crossed a major threshold in its history in early 1999 with the death of King Hussein Bin Talal, the man who had led the country virtually since the creation of the state of Jordan. His successor, King Abdullah of Jordan, who came to the throne on Feb. 8, 1999, has already begun to put his stamp on the monarchy. Like his father, he is proving to be an extremely popular king - partly because of the way in which he has deliberately tried to continue with the style of his father's reign.

In his first national address after ascending to the throne, King Abdullah promised to remain faithful to his father's programme of strengthening Jordan's institutions. Abdullah added that, like the late king, his rule would be based on the protection of democracy and respect for human rights. At the same time, he is trying to change the way in which the country is ruled from the old-style patronage system to one of efficiency and merit.

Within his first 100 days in office, King Abdullah had sent out all the right signals - to the US (Jordan's most important ally), to the Arab World and to its most powerful neighbour Israel. He emphasised continuity in foreign policy, and visited the US as well as key countries in Europe and the Arab World during that period to explain his outlook. In the Arab World, he travelled to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Libya and Syria. King Abdullah was one of the first foreign heads of state to visit Libyan Leader Co. Moammar Qadhafi after Libya turned over the two Pan Am 103 suspects to the United Nations. His visit set the tone for many other Arab leaders to openly readmit Qadhafi back into the Arab fold. Most countries, in the Arab World as well as in the West, have been reassured that the transition from King Hussein to King Abdullah will continue without any "bad surprises".

The key problems to be faced by Abdullah are in terms of ensuring domestic political stability and economic growth. He has himself admitted that Jordan no longer fears any attack from across its borders, in view of the peace treaty with Israel, improving relations with Syria because of the friendship between Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and a cordial but wary relationship with Iraq. He has also said that the main objective for Jordan should be economic advancement. Already, Jordan is in the lead among countries in the Arab World in terms of economic and political reform, and it has managed to achieve this despite being in a dangerous neighbourhood and severe socio-economic difficulties.

The kingdom has had help from Western allies to some extent, in terms of political support and financial backing, but for the most part the liberalisation process was carried out because the late King Hussein considered that to be the best way to ensure the stability of the kingdom. King Abdullah, who has as modern an outlook as his late father, is likely to push ahead with economic reforms. He has also said that Jordan should focus on growth areas such as information technology.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7JORD
Date:Sep 25, 2000
Previous Article:SYRIA - Democratisation Will Not Occur Soon.
Next Article:JORDAN - Managing The Transition.

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