Jordan's King Abdullah II announced Friday (September 30th) that he approved new constitutional amendments to provide more balance among government branches and improve the electoral process.
Both chambers of parliament, the House of Representatives and the Senate, passed the amendments after extensive deliberation and discussion.
"Political reform will follow the course we set for it, and we shall stay the course, step by step, in a manner that is responsive to the requirements of progress and aspirations of the community," King Abdullah II said in a statement.
On September 24th, Jordan's House of Representatives approved the draft constitutional amendments proposed by the Royal Commission on Constitutional Review with 98 representatives voting in favor, one voting against, 21 absent, and none abstaining.
Faisal al-Fayez, speaker of the House, hailed the vote as a "historic achievement that provides strong leverage for comprehensive reform".
"Over eight days, during which 16 morning and evening sessions were held, the House of Representatives lived up to its responsibility and produced amendments that promote freedom, democracy and the principles of justice and equality for all," he said.
The Senate endorsed the draft constitutional amendments it received from the House by a majority vote on September 28th. The draft was sent to King Abdullah II for approval and publication.
The amendments maintain the minimum age for candidates in the House of Representatives at 30 years old, instead of 25 years old as proposed by the government. They also stipulate that ministers be tried before the respective civilian courts in the capital.
The amendments include a special chapter on the establishment of a constitutional court. Its members will serve a single, six-year term. The amendments also establish an independent commission to supervise and conduct the parliamentary elections.
The amendments give the judiciary the right to adjudicate the validity of prosecution and consider appeals. They also prohibit the issuing of "temporary laws" unless the parliament is dissolved or a natural disaster, war or other emergency occurs.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to Article 69 that would have increased the term of the speaker of the House from one to two years.
Political analyst Walid Zahra said the constitutional amendments fell short of public expectations, but they represent a positive step forward.
"Pursuant to these amendments and election and political party laws, the days of the 'one-man, one-vote' electoral mechanism are gone for good, which will lead to political progress in the future," he said. "An independent commission will be established to oversee the elections because that role is not vested in the government anymore."
Zahra said it was surprising that the minimum age for House of Representatives candidates was not lowered as that amendment was intended to strengthen the voices of young citizens.
Ayman Salem, a lawyer, said the amendments gave the judiciary new powers by giving it authority over the trial of ministers, the right to adjudicate the validity of prosecutions, and the establishment of the constitutional court.
"The establishment of an independent commission to oversee the elections enhances the transparency of the election process in Jordan," he said.
Sami Mahasneh, a political writer, said Jordan "took several steps forward in its quest to become a modern democratic state" with the passage of these amendments.
"However, the constitutional amendments failed to fulfill the expectations of most popular political movements, especially opposition parties, including the Islamist Movement," he said, adding that the king said the door remains open for constitutional amendments in the future.
Although the public is divided over the amendments, Mahasneh said, "The regime in its entirety possesses the political will to get rid of the legacy that was passed down by previous governments with regard to rigging parliamentary and municipal elections."