As feared, Jordan elections may not be able to avert the predestined. Disaster and chaos now loom larger than ever on the nation. Its destiny now appears more palpable and so does its tryst with the inevitable. The parliamentary elections, held on Wednesday, may become Jordan's nemesis and expedite the inevitable — ignite the fire of discontentment afresh which has, in fact, been simmering on the backburner ever since Tunisian uprising shooed out its entrenched ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Much, however, depends on what happens in the neighbouring Syria. If President Bashar Al Assad falls or if Syria suffers a bifurcation, Jordan is sure to get sucked into the contagion which has been afflicting Middle East for two years and more. Jordan is almost certain to be the next victim of Arab Spring — the fifth Middle Eastern nation to follow Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya, where apparently unshakable rulers have already fallen or the sixth if Assad falls in Syria in the meantime.
It will be premature to agree with the Jordanian political activist Khalid Kamhawi that the opposition's boycott has turned the elections into an empty pageant. But we cannot deny that nothing much is expected of this election, held for the first time since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. Even Jordanians are believed to be sceptical of the promises of political and administrative reforms the new Parliament is expected to initiate and carry forward.
Jordan has, by and large, been successful in staving off the popular uprising 'like those which have led to the overthrow of four other Arab rulers.' But how long shall it remain stable and how long shall the monarchy remains insulated are questions that haunt most observers and analysts. Some recent events offer foreboding prognoses. Fragility of the monarchy that rules Jordan is increasingly becoming evident and a few analysts apprehend that a complete collapse of administration, like what we have already seen in Libya, Syria and Egypt, is in offing.
Opposition's boycott of the elections may turn out to be the last nail in the coffin of Jordan, rather of the monarchy to be precise. Dale Gavlak, in his essay Jordan election: Risks of not changing, has referred to Julian Barnes-Dacey of the European Council on Foreign Relations who sees that it is time for Jordan to negotiate renewed tests for stability. Protests and movements of the Islamic Action Front, Jordan's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood have already assumed threatening proportions and are turning broader.
A survey undertaken by Jordan's Al-Balad proved beyond all doubts that the new Parliament is unlikely to address the demands for reforms. At least 139 candidates in fray in the elections have served in previous Parliaments and 68 of them were there in the 16th Parliament.
"The similarity between this and previous years comes as an unwelcome surprise to many hoping for drastic change in light of Arab Uprising protests and civil unrest in neighbouring Syria."
The elections in Jordan have cured little but have opened the whole of Pandora's Box. The nation today looks more vulnerable than ever—threatened by the worsening drama next door. The monarchy's stubborn refusals in the past to introduce genuine reforms have not only sapped its credibility among the common Jordanians but have also perceptibly weakened its ability to stave off the Syrian contagion.
The Syrian contagion, rather inferno, has already spread out in its immediate neighbourhood. Guardian's former Middle East Correspondent and an author of renown David Hirst has been rather elaborate in his enumeration of the effects. The car bomb that killed Wissam Hassan, the Lebanese intelligence chief, and the sharpening of tensions it produced, was the most recent, dramatic illustration of it.
Turkey's far-reaching support for the Syrian opposition has bred retaliation from President Assad in the form of renewed support for the PKK, the separatist Kurdish militants, who are on the warpath again. As for Iraq, it becomes ever clearer that the "Syrian crisis" – a full-scale civil war – and its own "crisis" – involving endemic tensions among Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites that fall short of that but constantly seem to threaten it – are intimately bound up with each other.
Hirst's observation and reading of the situation offer us a rather grim scenario. Whatever the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Jordan's own reform-related troubles are now such that it might make little difference whether Assad survives or falls. For Jordan both alternatives look bad. If Assad survives, with at least the perceived connivance of Jordan, that will increase the hostility of Jordan's radical-led opposition towards the throne.
If he falls, that will greatly strengthen the Jordanian opposition, because they will have the full support of the new order — doubtless heavily radicals — that will emerge in Assad's place. In either case the more stubbornly the king resists the clamour for meaningful reform, the more the opposition will be inclined to go the whole hog and raise the slogan: "The people want the downfall of the regime."
Therefore, the options before Jordanian monarchy are rather few. And the best is what the Morocco model offers. Way back in 2011, Moroccan monarchy conceded much of his authorities and agreed to transfer some significant powers to the Parliament including the authority to form government. It was a deft move that nipped a budding upheaval and also ensured survival of monarchy.
Whether or not shall this example inspire the Jordanian monarchy is a question. So far it has shown neither any inclination nor any courage to follow the Moroccan suit. The elections notwithstanding, any further delay will certainly ensure that Jordan shall be the next victim of the Arab Spring.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.