King Abdullah II of Jordan's decision to form a royal commission to consider constitutional amendments was praised by political analysts who viewed the move as a positive step to initiate political reform.
The king appointed former Prime Minister Ahmed al-Lozi Tuesday (April 26th) to lead a royal commission charged with reviewing constitutional provisions and "to consider any constitutional amendments that are appropriate for the present and future of Jordan".
The commission includes Taher al-Masri, speaker of the senate and chairman of the National Dialogue Committee; Faisal al-Fayez, speaker of parliament; Fayez Tarawneh, a former prime minister; Rateb al-Wazni, president of the judicial council; Rajai Muasher, a former deputy prime minister; and former ministers Said al-Tal, Taher Hikmat, Marwan Dudin and Riad Shakaa.
The commission, which began its work on the day of the king's announcement, was formed in response to public demands for constitutional amendments. No timeline was announced about when it will complete its work.
A national political dialogue committee was already formed to review amendments to laws on political parties and elections. It held its first meeting in March. The royal commission will be responsible for potential amendments to the constitution.
Dudin, who along with al-Masri serves on both bodies, told Al-Shorfa, "Their work will lead to issuing suggestions and recommendations which will be submitted to parliament for approval."
Popular demands ranged from calls for a constitutional monarchy with defined powers for the king, to the cancellation of the 1952 constitutional amendments which gave the king absolute power over the government.
Jordan's constitution was adopted in 1952 during the reign of King Talal bin Abdullah and was amended 10 times.
The king sent a letter last Tuesday to al-Lozi spelling out the commission's task, which is to "work on promoting political life in a constitutional context and take into account what would be issued by the National Dialogue Committee in terms of recommendations for constitutional amendments related to laws on elections and political parties".
Zuhair Abu al-Ragheb, head of the The Islamic Action Front's freedoms committee, said that the commission should consider crucial amendments, including one that would strip immunity from a member of parliament through the judiciary and not through a majority vote in parliament, another for establishment of a constitutional court, and another that considers any potential dissolution of parliament.
Al-Ragheb said the commission should issue decisions as soon as possible to alleviate what he called a "state of tension" in the kingdom.
He said many recommendations and legislative studies tied to the proposed amendments were submitted by opposition parties to the former Jordanian parliament and the government.
Haitham Al Kayed, secretary-general of the Islamic Centre Party, said, "The king's initiative indicates a desire to continue with reform and development in all fields, especially political ones."
He added, "The work of the committee will focus on implementing the king's vision to maintain a balance between the authorities without one body dominating the other and enhance the performance of political parties and the parliament which will help parliament carry out its duties efficiently and independently."
Nabil Al-Ghaishan, a political analyst, said, "The royal guidance in forming the commission is an historic moment to rejuvenate the state and achieve justice so no one will remain dependent or marginalised in the shadow of a democratic process in which all segments of society participate."
He said the king's directives "went beyond everyone's proposals in terms of political reform and addressed the fears of the political elite who were crying that the constitution is a red line."
Ayman Salem, a lawyer, pointed out that the road to constitutional reform is still long because the proposed amendments must pass both houses of the National Assembly.
Hussein Abu Riz, a member of the National Dialogue Committee, however, objected to the formation of another committee to review constitutional amendments.
He said it "undermines the performance of the National Dialogue Committee, which carried the burden of promoting the reform process and proposing the desired constitutional amendments, while the new committee will draw from the original jurisdiction of the first."