In a sudden move, Jordan's King Abdullah II has dissolved parliament halfway through its four-year term and called for early elections without setting a date, Jordanian news reports said Monday, as carried in the pan-Arab daily AL HAYAT and the Beirut daily AN NAHAR Tuesday. The king issued a royal edict ordering the dissolution effective Tuesday of the 110-member assembly, composed mainly of tribal loyalists. The statement gave no reason for the king's decision or a clear date for the early ballot, but parliament had been accused of inept handling of legislation and there had been speculation it might be dissolved. Recent popular polls also revealed public disenchantment with the dissolved assembly.
Constitutionally, most powers rest with the king, who appoints governments and approves legislation. The monarch is also entitled to dissolve parliament. Liberal politicians say the move could herald a wider government shake-up to ward off popular disenchantment over economic contraction after years of growth, and allegations of official graft. Many politicians have accused Prime Minister Nader Dahabi's government of mismanagement as it grappled with the impact of the global downturn on the aid-dependent economy and a rise in public debt to record levels.
Parliament was elected in November 2007 under a controversial electoral law that reduced the representation of the largely Palestinian-dominated cities, which are Islamic strongholds, in favor of rural and Bedouin areas. The Islamist influence in a parliament dominated by the local concerns of tribal candidates was also reduced in the fourth multi-party polls since the revival of parliamentary life after riots in 1989. Successive governments have sidelined parliament and eroded the democratic gains made since that time. The government has four months to declare new elections, but lawmakers say the constitution allows the king to delay them. The last time parliament was dissolved was in 2001, but the elections were postponed at the time for two whole years.
King Abdullah had been counting on a new US drive for Middle East peace, and the stalemate in Palestinian-Israeli relations is casting a shadow on a country, the majority of whose six million citizens are of Palestinian origin. Many Jordanians fear their countrymen of Palestinian origin will settle permanently in the kingdom if they cannot return to the Palestinian territories, and are resisting their political empowerment in Jordan.