Opening the Second Ordinary Session of the 16th Parliament
26 October 2011
(Translated from Arabic)
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Prayers and peace be upon Our Master Mohammad, the Honest Arab Hashemite Prophet
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.
In the name of God, and with His blessings, we inaugurate the second ordinary session of the Sixteenth Parliament, continuing, enhancing and further deepening our democratic process, in fulfillment of our people’s aspirations for a new Jordan, a state of institutions, based on the rule of law, founded on justice and equality, freedom and human rights.
On all occasions I have spoken to you from this home of our democracy, we have been reviewing national policies, formulating priorities, addressing shortcomings or deficiencies, identifying solutions, calling for collaboration among state authorities and reasserting our stances towards our Arab and Islamic Nation. All throughout, the constant has always been the Jordanian human being, our commitment to work in his interest, and to moving Jordan and Jordanians forward towards a future that befits their rights.
The sensitive regional circumstances and the transformations that our region is undergoing compel us to assert our firm conviction that public participation, a clear roadmap, and unwavering commitment to reform are the only way forward. We need to overcome and rectify mistakes, and uphold meritocracy and accountability, which guarantee balance between the branches of government.
Our priority today is political reform. We have made big strides in our reform process with the completion and ratification of the constitutional amendments. Now, we need to build the legislative foundations on which political life can develop: new laws on election and political parties, independent election commission and constitutional court, as well as other legislation to implement the constitutional amendments. Those will add to what has been achieved so far, such as the public gatherings law and the teachers’ association law, as well as regulations organising the media, freedom of speech and expression. It is our frank opinion that this legislative framework is not final, but it is a necessary step to protect our democratisation process, by expanding the base of participation and representation.
All these steps will bring us closer to the ultimate goal of parliamentary government. Until the political party system matures and can play its rightful role in Parliament, we need to adopt an inclusive consultative approach to government formation, so that citizens can trust that, through their elected representatives, they are truly participating in the process of forming governments, monitoring them, and holding them accountable. We are fully committed to pressing ahead with an evolutionary and incremental process towards parliamentary pluralism and political diversity. And this evolutionary and incremental approach should not be interpreted as procrastination.
We also reaffirm before this honourable assembly our commitment to strengthening the parliamentary foundation of the political system, by incorporating the deliberations of the House of Deputies, which represents the aspirations and ambitions of the people, in the consultative process leading to the designation of prime ministers. We are keen on implementing this as of the next elected House of Deputies, which will be one of the first results of this comprehensive democratic transformation.
As for governments formed by political parties, this issue rests in the hands of the citizens and voters, and it is very much conditional to the ability of political parties to freely compete. We want all political forces to shoulder the responsibility and participate in the decision-making process, and we are firm in our belief that a national constructive opposition is a fundamental pillar of the state.
Jordan was founded on the principles of allegiance, piety, justice and equality for all. These principles inspired the Great Arab Revolt, and its cry for unity and freedom. Jordan has ever since been a haven for the free who shared nationhood and religion. Our Jordanian forefathers built this homeland as a house of freedom, justice and equality. Jordan belongs to all Jordanians. Loyalty is only measured by one’s achievements and service to the country. The diversity in roots and heritage enriches our Jordanian national identity, which respects the rights of the citizenry, in a spirit of unity, tolerance and moderation, and opens the gates of diversity.
Allow me to pause here and recall the main points in the government’s mandate to implement our reform vision and to be responsive to the various reform demands:
- I have directed the government to provide a safe and adequate environment for democratic engagement, guaranteeing the responsible exercise of freedom of expression.
- I emphasise the need to learn from past lessons, and to deal with any form of expression and peaceful protest, including peaceful demonstrations, in line with the highest standards of respect for civil liberties.
- As part of efforts to expand political participation and strengthen democratic practices, I have instructed the government to conduct municipal elections as soon as possible, and with the highest degree of impartiality and integrity. This will contribute to enhancing the reform process and enabling municipalities to fulfil their role in the service of local communities, preparing the ground for future decentralization steps.
- In terms of fighting corruption, and holding the corrupt accountable, the government is committed to extending all possible support to strengthen the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission and other relevant monitoring bodies, in order to guarantee the protection of public funds and to enhance integrity.
- I stress, no one is above the law. And no one is immune. We shall protect the values of justice and equal opportunity with the full power of the law, and we shall not allow anyone to misuse or abuse public funds, or encroach upon the rights of others. By enhancing the basic role of the judiciary in protecting justice and the rule of law, and by virtue of the recent constitutional amendments, we will spare no effort to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. We will continue to support this independent authority and provide all it takes to enable it to fulfil its high duties.
- The democratic process that we have adopted as a way of life requires free national media, with the highest standards of professionalism and credibility, operating under a legal framework that guarantees access to information and protects individual rights. By being open to all opinions, the media provides a venue for constructive and objective national debate.
- As for the distribution of development gains, I have directed the government to use utmost justice and fairness in the allocation of development programs and projects among the governorates.
- I have also instructed the government to establish a JOD150 million Fund for the Development of Governorates, as a first step, which must be followed by further steps, to allow average Jordanians to start feeling the positive impact of reform on their quality of life.
- When drafting local development plans, the government is required to focus on the specific needs, assets and features of each governorate, attracting quality investments, and at the same time rolling out services and infrastructure projects.
In tandem with the aforementioned political reforms, there is a set of policies, economic and developmental steps, that the government has to take in partnership with the private sector to fight poverty and unemployment, attract investments to create jobs for the youth, and improve the level and quality of services in the areas of education, higher education and healthcare. In addition, development and restructuring must continue in the fields of agriculture, energy, transport, tourism, administrative and fiscal reform. All this should be based on plans and programs outlined in the National Agenda, in order to achieve a comprehensive development that positively reflects on the living standards of citizens.
Youth are the largest component of our society and it is therefore necessary to revitalise their pivotal role in public life. The government will concentrate on supporting youth bodies, expanding the scope of their engagement and participation in formulating and implementing plans and programs on various aspects of our national endeavour. At the same time, I call upon the youth who wish to engage politically to do so under the umbrella of political parties that have economic, social and political platforms.
Our belonging to the Arab Nation is a main pillar of our foreign policy and we will continue to work closely with our Arab brethren to consolidate the work of joint Arab institutions, first and foremost the Arab League.
On this occasion, I want to express my utmost gratitude and appreciation to the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council for their forthcoming support with regard to Jordan’s accession to the GCC.
Jordan has always been, and will always remain, with God’s help, the first line of defence of Arab and Islamic causes. First among these is the Palestinian cause. We are committed to supporting our Palestinian brethren, until they regain their rights and establish their independent state on their national soil. We will not accept, under any circumstances, any settlement of the Palestinian cause at the expense of Jordan or at the expense of any of our national interests. We will continue to fulfil our duty and exercise our historic role in the custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy places in Holy Jerusalem.
Our brave men and women in the armed forces and security agencies are a source of pride for all Jordanians. I express my appreciation to them, for shouldering the great responsibility of protecting the security and stability of Jordan, and defending its progress and achievements. My government will do its utmost to provide all it takes to prepare, train and equip our brave comrades-in-arms in the armed forces and security agencies, and provide them with the necessary means so that they remain as always an example of efficiency, excellence and professionalism.
Today we stand before major comprehensive reforms. To shape the new Jordan, team spirit and the concerted efforts of all are needed: government, Parliament, constructive opposition, political parties, civil society institutions and professional responsible media, so that we all join ranks for progress, reform, and national security in its widest meaning.
"And say: Work: Soon will God observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers." (Al Tauba - Repentance 9:105)
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.