Thanksgiving and Politics

Mshairfeh, Jerash, Jordan

Happy Thanksgiving! It happens this year that Eid al-Adha falls the day after Thanksgiving, so I’ve got a 5-day weekend, Thursday to Monday, just as if I’d never left Pennsylvania!

I’m spending my long weekend with my Jordanian family, dar Nasri, in Mshairfeh, and they have something particular to be thankful for this week. “Did you hear what the king did?” exclaimed Wijdan this evening. I waited for her to be more specific. “He dissolved the Parliament!” I had heard. It’s his constitutional right. In the two years I was in Peace Corps, he dismissed the Prime Minister and his cabinet at least three times, though he hasn’t interfered much with the government for several years; international aid donors frown on that sort of thing…. Wijdan and her husband, on the other hand, are quite pleased. Nasri explained:

From Thanksgiving Weekend in Mshairfeh

The Parliament is terribly corrupt, he says. All the money they get to help the people and lower prices and unemployment goes instead into the pockets of MPs and their families. They buy themselves nice Mercedes, send their sons to expensive schools and universities, give jobs to their cronies, and the situation never changes for the rest of Jordan. Look at my wife! Ranked first among English teachers in Jerash, and yet she can’t get a job! But the king, God bless him, says Nasri, he cares about the people of Jordan. He’s looking out for the little guy in his kingdom, and he kicked all those corrupt MPs out of office and called for new elections.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that the same MPs won’t get their positions back, elected by their extended families and tribes, not for their political platforms or tribes, or for promises of reform, but because they’re family. Organizations like NDI are making some progress at teaching Jordanians to run on and vote for issues. Young journalists and activist bloggers tend to understand its importance. Still, those in power are reluctant to let it go, and it portends to be some time before Jordan’s democracy looks like, say, Turkey’s.

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