Opening the First Ordinary Session of the 17th Parliament
3 November 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
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.
In the name of God, and with His blessings, we inaugurate this session of the Seventeenth Parliament, which comes to embody the democratic process we sought as a consistent national approach to achieve reform and progress, deepen public participation in decision making, and entrench the parliamentary pillar of our political system, based on the Constitution.
This national occasion provides a platform to review the major achievements accomplished by Jordanians, starting, naturally, with emphasising the need to fortify our domestic front, and highlighting the fact that Jordan is continuing its quest to develop a regional reform model that is home-grown and based on a clear roadmap with specific reform milestones, some of which we have already achieved, including amending and updating political legislation, setting democratic rules for political action at the level of the legislative and executive branches of government and political parties, while consolidating active citizenship practices.
The reform process based on core constitutional amendments has enhanced freedoms, enrooted the separation and balance between the branches of government, and led to the creation of essential democratic institutions to continue democratic transformation and carry out the last parliamentary elections. The process also triggered the first steps towards parliamentary government on the basis of parliamentary consultations. Through this, we seek to reach an advanced state through coming parliamentary cycles, whereby a House of Representatives’ majority of platform-based political parties forms the government, while the minority, also comprised of platform-based parties, serves as shadow government in the House of Representatives. Parallel to this, progress in the fundamentals of partisan, parliamentary and governmental work goes hand in hand with the evolution of the Monarchy’s role and constitutional responsibilities, foremost of which is to guarantee pluralism and democracy, safeguard the balance between the branches of government and defend our national security.
Holding parliamentary and municipal elections in one year despite regional challenges underlines the state’s confidence in its institutions. Yet, it is necessary to learn lessons in order to progress with each election cycle.
At the national level, this requires developing the Political Parties and Elections Laws in preparation for the coming Eighteenth Parliament elections, which should be held on the basis of the amended laws and on the set date.
At the level of local government, it requires developing the Municipalities Law, finalising the decentralisation project and enacting the necessary legislation before the coming municipal elections.
It is also necessary to institutionalise partisan action and improve Parliament’s performance and working mechanisms, particularly the way in which parliamentary blocs in the House of Representatives function, with the aim of enrooting the parliamentary government approach.
Your Parliament is an incubator of democracy and national dialogue, and as such it should be an example of the best practices of democratic culture, dialogue and respect for others’ opinions. The recent endorsement of the House of Representatives’ internal bylaw and code of conduct is a contribution to such endeavour, as we stressed in the last Speech from the Throne. It is crucial to adhere to these in daily practice, so that they become a deterrent to any individual practices that contradict the basics of democratic work and the responsibility of representing the people. This will preserve the status and prestige of the House of Representatives and consolidate confidence in state institutions. All this will guarantee stability in parliamentary and government work, whereby the House of Representatives can complete its term, as long as it enjoys the people’s confidence, while the government will continue performing its duties as long as it enjoys the House of Representatives’ confidence.
Continued improvement of civil service performance to take it to the highest level of professionalism and competence is one of the most important prerequisites of parliamentary governments’ success. The government should move quickly to develop human resources in the public sector, prepare public sector leaders who excel, ingrain a culture of excellence, complete the restructuring of public sector agencies and the e-government services network, and advance the quality of basic public services such as education, health and public transportation. Citizens should taste the fruits of the white revolution we have issued directives to launch with the aim of reviving the public sector and civil service.
It is also essential to continue supporting the Constitutional Court and the Independent Election Commission, so that they can realise their full capacity-building levels in line with international best practices and become centres of excellence at the regional level.
There are laws that should be amended and developed to be in conformity with the Constitution within the deadline set by the constitutional amendments to avoid any conflict of laws. This requires the highest possible level of cooperation and a spirit of national responsibility between the legislative and executive branches. Chief among these pieces of legislation are the State Security Law and the Independence of the Judiciary Law, in addition to other laws that are essential to the current stage of political, economic and social development. We emphasise in this context the need for cooperation to enact these pivotal laws that will be discussed in this parliamentary session.
The Royal Committee for Enhancing the National Integrity System is about to complete its mission, based on national dialogues that took place to reach consensus on mechanisms to combat corruption and reinforce the existing national integrity system. The committee has drafted a national integrity charter and an action plan to implement it. The aim is to fight corruption, wasta and nepotism and enroot integrity. We also await the convening of a final national conference to present and deliberate the outcomes of the committee’s work and ensure the highest degree of consensus over them. This will pave the way to adopt these outcomes and implement them in a way that guarantees that citizens feel their impact on the ground.
Out of our keenness to ensure justice, integrity and the rule of law, we emphasise the need to enforce the law firmly and without discrimination. All state components should work to firmly and fully enforce the law and ensure justice for all, without complacency or favouritism. Accordingly, we direct the government and Parliament to provide the Judiciary with all it needs to help improve its performance and rehabilitate its cadres as part of a plan with a fixed timeframe. The judicial system should remain an example of competence and integrity, a guarantor of justice for all, and serve as a pillar of democracy.
Regarding public freedoms and the right to expression, we believe that these should be promoted in words and deeds, provided that they are coupled with a sense of responsibility, objectivity and respect for others’ opinions. Here emerges the responsibility of official and private media outlets and the need for them to adhere to professionalism and impartiality, away from rumour-mongering and defamation. They should serve the priorities and causes of citizens in a way that enriches intellectual pluralism.
Political reform goes hand in hand with economic reform. Both are pillars of democracy and prosperity, and thus we should underline the principles of the socio-economic approach of the Jordanian state, which I highlighted in the previous Speech from the Throne, and point out the economic reforms needed to implement these principles, a task that requires the government and House of Representatives to fully cooperate and rise to the level of such responsibility to overcome the financial challenges facing us, especially in light of the international and regional economic crises that affect our economic situation.
The public and private sectors and civil society institutions are real partners that complement each other in putting forward and implementing economic programmes and policies. Therefore, we look forward to the outcomes of the committee tasked with assessing the privatisation process to benefit from its recommendations and incorporate them in future economic and social plans.
The government has to also move towards decentralisation and deepen the approach of preparing strategies and action plans on the basis of the outcomes of field work and bottom-up consultations. Plans should be announced to the public with transparency so that performance can be evaluated accordingly. In light of these principles, decision making and the formulation of economic plans and development planning should be based on the following:
- Stimulating the national economy, improving competitiveness and an investment-friendly environment to generate jobs for Jordanians.
- Promoting growth and proceeding with addressing the challenges of poverty and unemployment and continuing the implementation of the National Employment Strategy.
- Improving citizens’ living conditions through consumer protection, by promoting competition and preventing monopoly, in addition to redirecting subsidies to those who deserve them, and supporting productive projects, entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises.
- The government should expedite efforts to diversify energy sources, relying on alternative and renewable sources, and accelerate the implementation of water, transportation and energy mega-projects to strengthen our national economic security.
- Furthermore, the government should commit to implementing over the coming three years the comprehensive action plan for the development of governorates, and to supporting municipalities to enable them to efficiently perform their duties.
The House of Representatives and Municipal Councils are accountable before voters and citizens for their performance. Accountability and trust go hand in hand, and so they have to carry out their responsibilities and strive to serve the public interest with transparency, away from wasta and favouritism.
The policies formulated by the executive authority and the decisions it takes in cooperation with the legislative authority will define the state’s ability to meet the growing needs. Any delay in setting priorities or reluctance in taking the necessary decisions will obstruct the interests of citizens and investors, and limit the state’s ability to provide basic services.
Therefore, all are required to strike a balance between achieving justice and serving the public interest on the one hand, and guaranteeing the interests of the generations to come, on the other. Such a balance is achieved by taking decisions based on an informed and scientific basis, away from false populism or attempts to make personal gains and in a manner that achieves self-reliance in state budgets, financial and environmental sustainability and the ability to address future burdens due to population growth.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, Jordan has adhered to its pan-national and humanitarian stand, supporting a comprehensive political solution that would trigger a transitional process involving all Syrians and preserving the unity of the Syrian people, the territorial integrity of Syria and regional security.
Jordan currently hosts around 600 thousand Syrian refugees, a matter that depletes our already limited resources and puts enormous pressure on our infrastructure. If the international community does not move quickly to help us shoulder the burdens of the Syrian crisis, I repeat and emphasise that Jordan is able to take measures to protect the interests of our people and country.
Hence, we reiterate the commitment of all state pillars to support our brave armed forces and security apparatuses, who put their lives on the line and work around the clock to defend Jordan’s security and achievements, so that the country can remain a model of excellence, competence and ability.
The Palestinian cause tops our foreign policy priorities. We deem the peace process and a solution to the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution a Jordanian higher national interest. Accordingly, Jordan is committed to supporting our Palestinian brethren in the ongoing negotiations to address all final-status issues, which are linked to our country’s higher interests, in line with a clear timetable and on the basis of international legitimacy and the agreed-upon terms of reference, especially the Arab Peace Initiative.
Jordan will continue to fulfil its religious and historical duty to protect Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian holy sites, and to confront any Israeli attempt to alter the identity of Jerusalem.
Challenges are numerous and difficult, but the will and determination of Jordanian men and women are greater and stronger. We are confident that the future will be better and we will overcome all challenges and achieve a lot with our little means. The sacrifices of Jordanians and their patience motivate all institutions to work with strong resolve. You have to honour the responsibility towards present and future generations that was entrusted to you as the Holy Quran says: “Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants.”
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.