Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—Jordan’s political elite are currently consumed with discussions of the future of relations between the country’s parliament and government following the election of Atef Tarawneh as Speaker of the Lower House. Jordan’s Lower House elected Tarawneh as its new speaker on Sunday in a vote following King Abdullah II’s inauguration of the 17th Jordanian parliament’s session.
In particular, Tarawneh has gained attention for his attempts to restructure the relationship between parliament and government to make it easier for legislators to oversee the government and hold it to account.
This attention has grown following the announcement by some members of parliament of a “program of escalation” against the government of Abdullah Al-Nasoor, with some MPs signing a memorandum of no confidence in the government which is set to be officially submitted in the coming days, according to informed sources.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat following his election as speaker, Tarawneh confirmed that he had informed Prime Minister Nasoor that parliament would be devoting a session every ten days to monitoring the actions of the government. He called on government ministers to prepare for questions by MPs.
Tarawneh also said that he will seek to draw a line under in-fighting between the government and parliament. He said, “Parliament will work with the government as equals and within a constitutional framework.”
He rejected the idea that “one power is destroying the other,” adding that “parliament will only side with the people and the national interest.”
For his part, Jordan’s prime minister confirmed “the government’s keenness for full cooperation with parliament considering that the relationship between the executive and legislative authorities is a perfect one,” in his first meeting with the new parliamentary speaker.
Tarawneh also spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the importance of “preserving the status of parliament and its members,” adding that any issues with individual parliamentarians should first be brought up with him.
“The speaker should never learn of the arrest of an MP via the media, even if parliament is not in session,” he said.
Tarawneh’s comments to Asharq Al-Awsat follow the issuance of an arrest warrant last week by a criminal court judge for MP Yahya Al-Saood on the charge of incitement to murder, only for the MP to be freed and investigations closed just one day later.
Former speaker Saad Hail Al-Soroor issued a press release saying he was surprised by the news of Saood’s arrest, adding that parliament knew nothing of the charges leveled against him and that the legislature had received no official complaint.
Tarawneh also highlighted the importance of “parliament amending all the legislation that is not compatible with the constitution within the time frame determined by the recent constitutional amendments.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are laws that are inconsistent with the constitution following the amendments approved two years ago, particularly the national security court law, as well as others that must be amended to comply with the constitution.”
In his first press statement following his election as speaker, Tarawneh said: “We will begin talks with political powers, parties, and trade unions on the issues pertaining to the political sphere and the laws discussed by parliament.”
He confirmed he would work on “activating the role of parliamentary blocs in order to communicate with the Jordanian people.” He added that he will begin visiting the kingdom’s various regions to talk to ordinary citizens about their issues and problems in order to to find effective solutions.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the new speaker said, “Change is the gateway to reform,” highlighting the importance of “choosing reformist figures to lead the program of desired reform.”
He also affirmed that his election as speaker of the lower house would see Jordan’s parliament following a new tack, adding that this indicates a general desire from the lower house for change.
Tarawneh, a known reformist, said: “Political reform is not a luxury. It is in Jordan’s interest to walk the path of reform.”
The new speaker fought the last parliamentary elections as part of a national list that campaigned for a reform program under the slogan “justice, equality, and strengthening the rule of citizenship.” He is also a founding member of the parliamentary “national bloc” that put forward a justice and equality program and passed an electoral law that works to strengthen democratic life.
Tarawneh told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Parliament will see a greater openness to the media to showcase its true successes,” adding that he supports “constructive criticism, but also the highlighting of success and not just focusing on the negative aspects of parliament.”
He also highlighted “the importance of changing the prevailing impression of parliament and the need to improve the opportunities for success as well as to build on past successes.”