Government and Politics

Jordan Table of Contents

IN LATE 1989, KING HUSSEIN ibn Talal ibn Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi remained in firm control of Jordan's political system as the central policymaker and legislative and executive authority. He maintained tight control over key government functions, such as national defense, internal security, justice, and foreign affairs. Crown Prince Hasan, the king's younger brother and heir apparent, complemented the small, Hussein-centered circle of power in his role as the king's right-hand man, especially in the areas of economy and administration.

Hussein's main power base continued to rest on the beduindominated army, which had been loyal to the Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) family for seven decades. Another source of strength was his astute ability to balance sociopolitical interests at home. Equally important, Hussein was Jordan's most accomplished diplomatnegotiator . During the 1980s, Hussein's autocracy also was substantially bolstered by his rapprochement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This significant development greatly reduced the threat to Hussein's rule posed since 1970 by various Palestinian guerrilla groups. Some groups, however, notably the Black September and Abu Nidal factions, continued to seek the overthrow of the entire monarchical structure.

The Transjordanians occupied a dominant place in the existing power structure. Hussein's palace staff and his top civil, judicial, and military officials were mostly Transjordanians. Although there was a Palestinian presence on the periphery of power, the Palestinians' continued exclusion from substantive decision-making positions tended to alienate the Palestinian community and served as a potential source of political instability. Hussein's decision in July 1988 to renounce Jordan's claim to sovereignty over the West Bank and his subsequent recognition of the PLO's declaration of an independent Palestine may further affect the systemic integrity of Jordan because the Palestinians living on the East Bank must choose whether they want Jordanian or Palestinian nationality.

Another source of political instability for Hussein's regime at the close of the 1980s was the continued severe recession that had plagued the economy since the mid-1980s. This economic retrenchment was in sharp contrast to the economic growth experienced during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The combination of high inflation and high unemployment rates contributed to the pervasive sense of dissatisfaction that erupted in major antigovernment riots in several cities and towns in April 1989. Although all Jordanians were adversely affected by rising prices and falling income, the Palestinians living in refugee camps--most of whom were poor before the recession--bore the brunt of the economic decline. Their economic frustrations helped reinforce their political alienation.


For more information about the government, see Facts about Jordan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress