• Anita

The King — The Throne — The Crown

King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein

As we rub our hands with glee over the fascinating subject of Jordanian government, try to restrain yourself. Government isn't my favorite subject either. I cannot be excited about any ruler over mankind until the Ruler of all rulers comes to power with His scepter of iron. The only thing earthly sovereigns have proved is that they cannot rule with equity, truth, or love. I, for one, am ready for the real deal.

Nevertheless, I announced I would tell you about how the government of Jordan operates in order to enhance your knowledge of this remarkable country that you may live in some day. I'll try to make it as painless as possible with bullet points instead of endless facts and figures.

Who am I kidding?

You're not going to wade through bullet points and inane descriptions of how Jordan's government functions. I have read more articles than I care to footnote on this subject, and I'm just going to tell you in my own words (and with a simple chart) how the citizens are governed in this Middle Eastern country.

This is a simplified chart showing the trickle-down of power. In a nutshell: the king is da man. He runs everything EXCEPT for the fact that both houses of Parliament—if they can get their act together—can override the king's veto by a two-thirds vote. Since he appoints some of them, that may not be the most likely thing to happen, but it has done so in the past on a few occasions.

Government's Beginning

You may remember from my earlier blog on the history of Jordan, the country came together because of the ability of Emir Hussein to unite the native Bedouin tribes. Because Britain was willing to step aside and work in the background, Jordan suffered much less turmoil than other countries which were carved out in that part of the world.

That was a mixed blessing because those same tribal/family allegiances still exist in the government today. It is difficult for those of a Western mindset to grasp how the Eastern mind works. We think in terms of innocence or guilt, while they are concerned with honor and shame. Tribal and familial connections are everything. We say in the U.S., "It's not what you know; it's who you know." That is true to a certain extent, but in Jordan and Arabian nations around the world, it is crucial to how things play out in society, religion, and government. These loyalties play a huge role in government and even crime and punishment. They cannot be discounted in how things work in Jordan.

The tribal people are also called the East Bankers (east side of the Jordan River) and are the original residents of this country. As I mentioned before, Jordan wouldn’t enjoy the relatively peaceful government it has without the previous kings including the tribesmen in the process. The former king, Hussein, developed alliances with them through patronage, giving them free education and jobs in the security services and government.”[1]

In return, the East Bankers—loyal to the monarch—keep Jordan as secure as it can be in this dangerous part of the world, a desert kingdom where Palestinians outnumber Jordanians and tribal customs outweigh democratic precepts.[2]

A retired general, Ali Habashneh, said, “The Jordanian tribal system is the protector of this country, and if the tribes left this role, it would be the end of Jordan.”[3] As a nod to their role, the military uniforms are designed from their native garb.

Sometimes this butts heads with Western ideology. For example, Jordan's legal system derives from:

  • Islamic law

  • Codes instituted by the Ottoman Empire (based on French law)

  • British common law

Them's some strange bedfellows. You can see right away that there is possibility for conflict within the country.

OK—a Few Bullet Points (I can't help myself)

Put simply, here is how Jordan's government works according to the Constitution (written in 1952):

  • Jordan is a constitutional, hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government.

  • Islam is the official religion

  • The country is part of the Arab ummah (“nation”), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), consisting of 57 nations, representing over 1.8 billion people.[4]

  • The king remains the country’s ultimate authority and wields power over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

  • Jordan’s central government is headed by a prime minister appointed by the king, who also chooses the cabinet.

  • The appointments of both prime minister and cabinet are subject to parliamentary approval.

Local Government

Where local government is concerned, Jordan does not have states like we are used to. It has governorates.

  • Each of those twelve governorates is divided into districts and subdistricts headed by an official appointed by the Minister of the Interior.

  • Cities and towns each have mayors and partially elected councils.

  • It was not until 2017 that local elections were held to be voted on by the people. Until then, local councils were assigned.

  • Finally, in 2018, the Decentralization Law opened the way for elections of governorate councils to oversee local matters.

Political Process

The political process includes:

  • Jordanians 18 years of age and older may vote.

  • Political parties were banned between 1957 and 1992.

  • In 1992 political parties were legalized—as long as they acknowledged the legitimacy of the monarchy.

  • Although not a political party, the transnational Muslim Brotherhood continued, with the tacit approval of the government, to engage in socially active functions, and it captured over one-fourth of the lower house in the 1989 election.

  • Since then, the brotherhood has maintained a significant minority presence in Jordanian politics through its political arm, the Islamic Action Front.

  • There are 30 political parties in Jordan. According to BBC, Israel has 34.[6]

You think we have a mess?

The King

You may be fascinated to discover that there are twenty-six monarchies in the world. Of those, eleven have a king who actually rules. Of those eleven countries, nine are Muslim. The other two, Swaziland and the Vatican, are Christian. Interesting, no?

King Abdullah II is in control, although you cannot call Jordan a strict monarchy.

I found it interesting that in general, religious Islamic art almost never includes the likeness of a person. You don’t see family pictures on the walls of homes or in public. Arabic art extensively uses calligraphic, geometric, and abstract floral patterns.[7] However, all over Aqaba (and other parts of the kingdom as well) we saw the king’s smiling face enhancing the sides of buildings.

Crown Prince Hussein

King Hussein, who ruled from 1952 until his death in 1999, had long said his successor would be his brother, Hassan. However, when he developed cancer and realized his death was near, he announced his eldest son, 36-year-old Abdullah II, would take the throne instead. Abdullah’s eldest son, Crown Prince Hussein, is the heir-in-training.

Educated in England and America, Abdullah is Western-looking and eager to bring Jordan to more of a democratic state. But centuries of honor-and-shame, tribal thinking have stymied him.

After the unrest and uprising of Arab Spring, Abdullah II expressed the following in a New York Times interview:

"The king was also frankly dismissive of the tribal leaders from the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally formed his family’s base of support. 'The old dinosaurs,' he called a group of East Bank tribal leaders, including a former prime minister, before a meeting with them in the town of Karak. “It’s all about, ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I am in his tribe,’ ” the king said of their political program.[8]

For a very good article that gives great insight to the king, click here.

The Crown and the Throne

I looked for information about whether there is a real throne or a real crown for Jordan’s king and could find nothing. There is Throne Hall in Amman’s Raghadan Palace, which is used for state occasions.

Queen Elizabeth has many bejeweled, priceless crowns, as do the titular monarchs of Europe and elsewhere. There are several thrones in London, the most well-known being in Westminster Abbey which included the infamous Stone of Scone (pronounced Skoon), aka Stone of Destiny and Stone of Jacob’s Pillow. The last time it was used was at the coronation of Elizabeth in 1953.

As a side story—we are really on a rabbit trail here—some Scottish students stole the stone from Westminster Abbey in 1950 and secreted it away to Scotland. It was returned four months later, but the Scots never forgot. Almost fifty years passed and because of Scottish dissatisfaction with a constitutional settlement, the British government chose to throw them a bone and “decided that the stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations.”[9] The stone was transported to the Edinburgh Castle, arriving November 30, 1996, on St. Andrew’s Day. Ironically, Prince Andrew, Duke of York (who has been in the news of late), represented his mother in the handover ceremony. It currently remains alongside the crown jewels of Scotland in the Crown Room.[10]

Let’s get back on track and leave the British Isles, whose coronation traditions didn’t transfer to the pieces of land they carved up like steak on a plate.

I told a little fib, didn't I? I sprinkled several bullet points throughout this blog. It seemed like the right thing to do.

I make no judgment on the government of Jordan. Not only can that get you into trouble there, it’s not my country and not my business. If I want to gripe about the government, there is plenty of fodder in the United States of America.

I hope you have been enlightened with this handful of information about Jordan’s government, and I trust you have had a very thankful day, remembering all the blessings Yehovah pours out in abundance.

If you wish to be notified when we publish a blog, leave your email on our Contact page. Next time, I'll share about the geography of this fascinating land.

[1], accessed 11/27/19

[2] https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Islamic_art, accessed 11/26/19

[3] Ibid.

[4], accessed 11/24/19

wiki/Organisation_of_Islamic_Cooperation, accessed 11/26/19

[6], accessed 11/24/19

[7] https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Islamic_art, accessed 11/26/19

[8], accessed 11/28/19

[9], accessed 11/27/19

[10] "The Stone Of Destiny". accessed 11/27/19

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