Last week, before an audience of young American liberals, King Abdullah II charmed viewers of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. The King sat stoically and spoke succinctly. He seemed like a seasoned monarch, weighed down by his own benevolence in a region of malice. Any non-Jordanian viewing the show, would have been enchanted. The King gave the impression that power takes its toll on a man. As streaks of grey lined his hair viewers thought, “this man is carrying his nation through a hurricane”, much the way democrats view Obama today. Yet, the King’s appearance was wrought with ulterior motives. In front of the world, he declared himself a constitutional monarch, discounted the Brotherhood, and accused Islamists of “hijacking” the revolutions.
As the King met with leaders of the United Nations, the Islamic Action Front rallied a group of protesters for one of the largest Friday demonstrations since the beginning of the uprisings. Outside a building in Amman’s financial district, retirees of the phosphate industry gathered to demand their rights as workers. “We are with His Majesty the King!” Said one of them, “if the King himself was to come down here right now and tell us that we have no rights, we would go home immediately.”
Protests around the nation are filled with people who are caught between currents and conflicts of interest. They know they want reform, but they don’t know how they want it. They know they want the King, but they don’t want a dictator. They want to vote in elections, but they want to boycott the corrupt ones imposed by the regime. Such is the plight of citizens of this small nation.
When the Islamic Action Front announced that it would boycott the upcoming elections planned for the start of 2013, people wondered whether they were experiencing déjà vu. Yes, the election laws are completely unfair, but the people have tired of the Front’s tactics. Of three million eligible voters, about two million have registered to vote. Each individual registration was a blow to the IAF, showing the Brotherhood that people are tired of poker politics - constant bluffing, rigged decks, and never raising the ante.
News sources around the world are publishing alarmist articles about the King’s latest Prime Minister (the 62nd in 66 years since the country’s establishment) but those who listen fail to see the difference between the Hashemite Kingdom and other Arab tyrannies. In Jordan, people have seen these sorts of decisions for years. It has become second nature, like the turning of the seasons. Out with the old, in with the old. They glance at neighbouring Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and see that uprising means sacrificing a lot for many years before a system can thrive. At this point it means Islamism and crackdowns and violence. Their neighbours have gone through this and are still years away. Yes, protests have increased since the Arab Awakening, but the monarchy has its finger right on the pulse—it can see its citizens cards. It knows that for now, most Jordanians aren’t ready to go all in, and they will call their bluff.