Royal rifts: implications of the family feud in Jordan
Jordan moved dangerously close to crisis last month, as an alleged foreign-backed plot to replace the reigning monarch threatened to plunge the otherwise remarkably stable Middle Eastern nation into the abyss. Just as suddenly, the tensions apparently disappeared.
The former crown prince and half-brother of King Abdullah II, Hamzah bin Hussein, said to be a leader in the plot, thereafter loyalty commitment at the crown. A group of 16 men, accused of sedition, were published without charge. While two other men linked to the plot remained in detention, the whole sorry episode seemed to end without ceremony.
But the ramifications of a few dramatic weeks in Jordanian politics will continue to be felt, with potential consequences throughout the region.
Jordan says former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein was linked with “foreign parties” in a plot to undermine security.
– DW News (@dwnews) April 4, 2021
What now appears to be widely accepted is that the alleged coup was simply a bad attempt to reduce growing popularity within the kingdom. Shortly after Hamzah was placed under house arrest, the prince leaked a video proclaiming his innocence and criticizing the government, declaring he was “not responsible for the failure of governance, corruption and incompetence” that prevailed in Jordan’s governance structure for the past two decades, nor was he responsible. of lack of faith people have it in their institutions ”.
The Abdullah-Hamzah conflict dates back to 1999, when then-King Hussein disrupted the line of succession, replacing his brother with the current King Abdullah and appointing Hamzah as crown prince. This came with the waiting that Abdullah would relinquish the crown to Hamzah, King Hussein youngest and favorite son, when the young prince was old enough to rule. Instead, Abdullah deleted Hamzah’s title as crown prince, later designate the role to his own young son.
While such a royal maneuver is not a rare event in the history of the Hashemite kingdom, Hamzah’s response to being “relieved” of his royal responsibilities was remarkable: instead of withdrawing from politics and refocusing his attention on charities, Hamzah deliberately retained a political presence, often criticize government and corruption within the kingdom.
While a former crown prince can be arrested for criticizing the country’s governance, it would appear that there is little space for everyday Jordanians to voice their displeasure.
Intra-family conflicts are a fundamental part of the royal life of monarchies in the Arab and Western worlds, although public dissemination is unusual for the Hashemite family. Similar intra-royal quarrels can be seen in the large multi-branch secession line of the al-Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia, the most recent is the result of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman title membership. Changes to the accepted line of succession have also been observed through coups in Oman and tried in Qatar.
But this latest family feud has fueled tensions in Jordan. Hamzah’s critics have resonated with the Jordanians, given that the country’s economy has been stagnant for several years, a problem exacerbated by the experience of Covid-19. The economy actually contracted by 3.5% in 2020, global unemployment doubling for 24.7%, with even higher prices for highly educated youth, who are angry with Corruption and a lack of accountability. Government efforts to target only petty corruption have done little to dispel the belief that the government does not seriously tackle the problem.
Like many countries in the Middle East, Jordan has a swollen public sector and seeks to encourage more growth in the private sector. But large-scale corruption is found in crony capitalism: private land transactions between the elites of the Kingdom and the manipulation of services and taxes – elements that the government often chooses to ignore.
The Jordanian agricultural sector provides an example. As the poorest farmers go bankrupt after struggling with water conservation in the second poorest country in the world, wealthy landowners – often former civil servants – manipulate the rules for growing and exporting crops with high water consumption.
Despite the simmering discontent, Jordan is not at serious risk of an imminent collapse. Jordanians are perfectly aware instability at their borders, and its large refugee population constantly reminds us of how Jordan could become the “next Syria or Iraq“. But the problems will continue to get worse if they are not addressed.
King Abdullah must seize the opportunity to engage in a transparent dialogue on the future of Jordan. This should involve a real attempt to deal with corruption and ultimately transform the Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy. Changes to date have been cosmetic, such as reshuffling government ministers or appointing new prime ministers – 13 since King Abdullah took office in 1999.
Jordan has a strong protest culture, but Hamzah’s arrest was damaging. While a former crown prince can be arrested for criticizing the country’s governance, it would appear that there is little space for everyday Jordanians to voice their displeasure. And that does not serve the interests of the Hashemite kingdom in the longer term.