In a region overwhelmed by revolution and dramatic unrest, it is easy to overlook those countries which aren’t on the brink of regime change. In comparison to Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan appears to be about as turbulent as a well-run nursing home. This perception is no accident, as the Kingdom has a vested interest in projecting an image of stability; a calm oasis in the middle of chaos. But since the start of the Arab Spring, Jordan has been shaken by demonstrations and protests calling for greater democracy and immediate political reform. While the king may be charming to American and European audiences (he went to prep school in Massachusetts, speaks perfect English, and chats with Jon Stewart) many Jordanians are growing increasingly tired of the exclusivity and corruption which marks their political system. Furthermore, the regional politics have demonstrated the power of public mobilization, and one would have to assume that the Jordanian king and his cronies are a bit more nervous about their futures in a post-Arab Spring world.
It appears that the pressure may be working. In a dramatic development, King Abdullah announced that he will relinquish one of his key powers: appointing the country’s prime minister and cabinet. In a recent statement, the king vowed that future cabinets would be elected by the parliament. If this change comes to pass, it would be a victory for those who hope to see Jordan transition to a constitutional monarchy with a strong parliament and checks on executive power. While this is exciting news, we should hold off on the champagne until we see some action. King Abdullah has promised a lot of reform in his last 12 years; I want to see if this smooth talker can also do some walking.