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Speeches from the Throne
Speech from the Throne By His Majesty King Abdullah II
Opening the Non-Ordinary Session of the 17th Parliament
Amman, Jordan
10 February 2013

(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

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.

In the name of God, and with His blessings, we inaugurate the first session of the Seventeenth Parliament, which we want to be a milestone on the road to democratisation and comprehensive reform, which has been our approach since the day we assumed our constitutional responsibilities. We have worked, and we will continue to work, with unrelenting determination to strengthen the nation as source of power and partner in decision-making, out of our commitment to serving the interests of our people. You can realise this goal by performing your historic responsibilities as deputies and senators representing all Jordanians, being accountable to citizens, and carrying out your monitoring and legislative duties. You are also expected to shoulder your responsibility towards the success of this historic transformation towards parliamentary government and its development. We will work together and carry out our responsibilities based on the principles enshrined in the over 90-year-long legacy of our national institutions, and we will move confidently towards renewal and comprehensive national renaissance.

Over more than a year, a set of reforms has been implemented, aimed to strengthen the democratic approach and empower the people, through their representatives, to consolidate their active role in decision-making, monitoring and accountability, and enhance the role of the Lower House as a cornerstone in the parliamentary hereditary monarchy system based on the Constitution.

Jordan has achieved constitutional amendments that have entrenched the principle of separation and balance of powers and prevented the encroachment of one branch of government over the other. These changes have enrooted the independence of the judiciary, respect for human rights and the principles of justice and equality. They also enhanced the legislative and monitoring role of the Lower House, and paved the way for the creation of a set of constitutional and monitoring institutions to strengthen our democracy. Chief among them is the Constitutional Court, which specialises in overseeing the constitutionality of laws and regulations in force. Within the same context, we updated a package of political laws, including the Political Parties Law, Elections Law and Public Gatherings Law, to widen and deepen political participation, enroot partisan action and freedom of expression. The Independent Elections Commission also emerged as an independent entity to ensure the integrity and transparency of elections. The commission’s efforts in overseeing the recent parliamentary elections that produced your esteemed Assembly have been unprecedented, as testified by both local and international observers.

As we pass through a decisive transitional period that requires us to update the way government and legislature work, we have to underline a set of principles and national priorities that we have reached through the evaluation of previous governments’ performances and outreach to all pillars of the state and segments of society. These principles and priorities should serve as guidelines for Parliament and the coming parliamentary government.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,
 
After we have held parliamentary elections in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with international best practices, we call for a new approach. We will start as part of this new approach with consultations over the government’s formation with the Lower House and parliamentary blocs as they take shape, in order to reach consensus that leads to the designation of a prime minister, who, in turn, will enter into consultations with the parliamentary blocs and other political forces as he selects his ministerial team. He will then seek the Lower House’s confidence based on a policy statement resulting from the consultation process, and on four-year programmes.

If a coalition of blocs that enjoys the support of the House’s majority emerges, the consultation and government formation processes will be quick and smooth. In the absence of a majority coalition, on the other hand, this process will take more time and effort. This is a fundamental fact of parliamentary democracy.

I emphasise here that the development of the consultation mechanism hinges on the development of partisan and parliamentary work, which leads to the emergence of a majority parliamentary coalition on partisan basis. The government would emerge from such coalition, while an opposition parliamentary coalition would take shape to monitor the majority and serve as shadow government.

Such role requires that you shoulder a great responsibility. Parliament should serve as incubator of national dialogue and engage in extensive discussions with local communities and political forces, so that the views of all are heard and taken into account in the decision-making process. Each citizen should become convinced that his or her political participation is fruitful.

The Lower House’s role in a parliamentary government system requires that the House move quickly to develop its rules of procedure to institutionalise the work of parliamentary blocs and enhance its effectiveness. The Lower House should also develop a binding code of conduct under which deputies commit themselves to constructive parliamentary practices that strengthen their legislative and monitoring performance, and establish a relationship with the government based on competition in the service of the public good, rather than narrow personal gains, and fight wasta and favouritism.

The elections were held under a new election law that was not ideal, although it earned as much consensus as was possible. Therefore, I call for revisiting this law based on an assessment of your experience and for reviewing the electoral system in a way that wins consensus, promotes fair representation, enables parties to compete fairly, enhances the parliamentary government experience and safeguards the principle of pluralism. This system should develop in parallel with the evolution of partisan life.

We also seek to achieve parliamentary and governmental stability, so that Parliament and government can carry out their work in a positive atmosphere over a full four-year term, as long as the government maintains the confidence of the Lower House, and the Lower House maintains the confidence of the people.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

We call for a new bottom-up approach to government work based on building strategies and action plans in consultation with the grassroots. The government should exercise transparency and openness and make available all necessary information when it presents to the people and their representatives budgets, projects, implementation stages and progress reports. Governments should be judged and held accountable on the basis of all of the above. The government and its agencies, therefore, should believe beyond doubt that their top responsibility is the development of the public sector through fieldwork, direct communication with the public and understanding of citizens’ needs. Otherwise, the Lower House would be held accountable before the people to withdraw its confidence from the government or a certain minister.

This requires continuous improvement in the efficiency and quality of government services, which should be accessible to all citizens. It also requires that government agencies commit to institutionalised work to achieve the highest degree of efficiency and transparency in the selection of secretaries general and general managers and to ensure the success of government plans. This means that the government should take the initiative and launch a white revolution to advance performance in line with a declared plan with specific goals.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

The socio-economic approach of the Jordanian state has been characterised over ninety years by flexibility and continuous development, based on partnership and integration between the public and private sectors and civil society organisations. Therefore, the public sector should be the catalyst, regulator and monitor that protects citizens and consumers, ensures the provision of quality basic services and stimulates the business environment. The private sector, on the other hand, should be the key initiator when it comes to investment and job creation, whereas civil society organisations and local cooperatives should serve as incubators of entrepreneurship and volunteerism. It is with such a mix based on integrated efforts and mutual and balanced responsibilities of the three sectors that we overcome our economic and social challenges.

We emphasise here the importance of successive governments’ work on the development of governorates in partnership with the private sector and civil society. The aim is to stimulate the energies of local communities through the completion of the decentralisation project, which complements and enhances our democratic process, advances decision-making mechanisms, ensures the highest degree of popular participation in local decision-making, and leads to a more equitable distribution of development gains. The Governorates Development Fund will play a supportive role in the implementation of these objectives.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

There is a need to make the necessary amendments to the laws affected by the constitutional amendments, to ensure that they comply with the Constitution. I also underline here a set of laws that require your cooperation to be completed in a manner that responds to citizens’ aspirations. Most important among these are the draft laws on illicit gains, civil service retirement and income tax, along with the landlords and tenants law, which should ensure justice for all parties. There are also the consumer protection, investment and public-private sector partnership, labour and social security laws.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

Jordan is capable, God willing, to stand up to any external challenge, and this requires a constant commitment to supporting our Armed Forces and security agencies, and reinforce our internal front, which is the source of our strength. In parallel with this, we should be keen to consolidate our regional and global active role, which is founded on a foreign policy that supports our Palestinian brothers in the restoration of their historical and legitimate rights, and the establishment of their long-sought state on Palestinian national soil. We also support joint Arab action and defend the true image of our Islamic faith as a religion of moderation.

Honourable Senators,
Honourable Deputies,

The vision and blueprint we have put forward are requirements for democratic transformation and the basic rules of a reformist approach in which the roles of the Lower House, parliamentary governments and citizens are integrated under the unifying umbrella of the Constitution. This vision is backed by the just judiciary, to which we reiterate our support and commitment to providing all requirements for its independence. Reform is also complemented by media outlets that are professional, responsible and balanced as they work to expose the truth, defend freedom of expression and respect the rights of individuals. And we shall proceed, committed to reform and modernisation.

I ask God Almighty to grant us success as we serve the interests of our homeland and citizens and pursue development, democracy and renaissance.

Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.