Sunday, March 20, 2005

King of Jordan Speaks: "JENNINGS: Any number of international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, international organizations that favor democracy, say that one of the impediments to political development in Jordan is in fact the crown itself, namely you.
ABDULLAH:Well, by decentralization, by being able to create three or four political parties as opposed to 30, I think that we can strengthen the institutions, so that the crown can take a step back and people can take a step forward.
JENNINGS: But if people want 30 political parties, why shouldn't they have them?
ABDULLAH: Well, you can have 30, you can have 50, but political parties, if we're trying to -- I mean, seriously move the process along, 30 parties or more that do not have political party platforms, where they stand on the economy, where they stand on social services, health, education, I don't think that's the mature way of growing them. We're trying to, and this is the problem, the Crown can't step in and say to political parties, 'Shouldn't you come up with a political party program?' But we're hoping, with democratic maturity, that that happens, and, we haven't -- (Overlap)
JENNINGS: Excuse me for interrupting. Who decides democratic maturity? Who is --.
ABDULLAH: The people.
JENNINGS: -- as of now, you decide democratic maturity?
ABDULLAH: Well in this particular position, we formed the government, that the parliament is elected by the people. But to encourage that, I mean, I have been in discussions with parliamentarians that would it be stronger for you to create where you stand on issues of education, social services, et cetera, et cetera, so that you can create a political party so that in the future, the people actually pick you for where you stand, and not because you happen to be a cousin or a tribal member?
JENNINGS: Would you be happy to be the head of a constitutional monarchy, as well ...
ABDULLAH: Well, eventually ... (Overlap)
JENNINGS: ... than an absolute monarchy?
ABDULLAH: ... eventually that's what we're trying to do, and by creating, decentralization, by trying to get these three regions, with their own elected parliaments, that will be the end game.
JENNINGS: So the end game could be a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute monarchy?
ABDULLAH: Absolutely. Because that -- I mean, we have to modernize, I think monarchy plays a vital role in countries such as Jordan. I think there's a lot of positive aspects, but monarchies have to modernize, and a way of modernizing is to do these political reform issues that will give people a much larger say in the way their countries go.
JENNINGS: Can I put it to you quite bluntly, sir: Do you condone the torture of prisoners in the Jordanian penal system?
ABDULLAH: Not at all, and there has been some cases reported where there has been abuse between prisoners and between police prison guards. And I have a new police chief at the moment that is looking into that..."

(Note that the last answer mentions "the police chief" as if he has jurisdiction over mukhabarat in Jordan.)