While the world watched Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak doing his imitation of Tunisian President Ben Ali (they gave nearly the same speech saying that they would stay would not run but would stay in power until the end of their terms of office, one has fled the other not yet), the King of Jordan was taking the lesson of too little too late to heart. This morning he sacked his entire government and appointed a new Prime Minister.
There has been a lot of talk about where the popular uprisings come from, but it is really very simple. When the price of food is too high, when there is no work, and when the people perceive their government as not caring, then it starts to look like there is nothing to lose. When they see the populace of places like Egypt and Tunisia rising up to protest and insist on a new government, then it there is something to win. Those factors make it far more likely that the people will take the streets.
It has not gotten a lot of press but there have been street protests in Jordan since the fall of the Ben Ali government. What makes Jordan different is that King Abdullah II is not what you might call a heavy handed ruler. He is the monarch, there is no doubt but what he has that neither Presidents Mubarak nor Ali have is an understanding of the unhappiness of his people and he has moved to take action.
The problem is that the action he took today is the same action he has taken before. Bloomberg News is reporting today that since taking the Crown in 1990 King Abdullah has replaced his prime minister 15 times. In twenty years he has dissolved the government and shuffled the chairs in an attempt to make things better for his people and to keep their anger from boiling over. . . .
To a certain extent is has worked. The tribes of Jordan still support their King and while there is resistance asking for real reform it has not reached the point where it seems that the Jordanian Monarchy is in danger. Still, we never know. Just a couple of weeks ago many analysts would have said the same thing about Mubarak’s reign.
The people of Jordan are incredibly poor. They import nearly 90 percent of all their oil and rely heavily on foreign aid. If staple food prices continue to rise, which is something that the King can not really control, then it might start to look better and better to the more of the people to find a new form of government.
What good news there is for the King and his government is that the economy of Jordan is expected to grow by as much as 6% this year. That kind of economic growth, assuming it gets to the people at the lower strata of society, is enough to defuse the urge to take to the streets and demand change. This is not the King’s first rodeo; he has been balancing the pressures of his nation for two decades. As long as he can keep an ear open to what the people really want and need, there is a chance that he can retain the throne.
What’s on your mind tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.