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Khalil Atiyah: The View From Amman - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Khalil Atiyah. Source: Asharq Al-Awsat Photo

Khalil Atiyah. Source: Asharq Al-Awsat Photo

Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—The first deputy speaker of the Jordanian Chamber of Deputies, Khalil Atiyah, has spoken to Asharq Al-Awsat in an exclusive interview. He explained how the composition of the new government, and the consultations undertaken by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Nusur were “nothing but superficial formality, a futile, nonsensical camouflage.” Atiyah also said that Al-Nusur’s offer to reshuffle the government and introduce MPs into it after six months was “a form of deception of the MPs in order to gain absolute confidence.” He said the offer was a great insult, and showed disdain for the Chamber of Deputies and its members.

Asharq Al-Awsat: How do you view the formation of the new government, which occurred after two months of consultations with Parliament?

Khalil Atiyah: It has become evident that these consultations were nothing but superficial formality, a futile, nonsensical camouflage. They were meant to give the impression that Al-Nusur’s government arrived via nomination by MPs as a result of these negotiations, and that there is political reform through a new policy in forming governments—namely by conducting consultations with the MPs. Thus, it was to the surprise of most ministers that the representatives did not welcome the formation of the new government. It was clear from the manner of the discussions that Al-Nusur would get a renewal.

Q: Is Jordan currently capable of forming parliamentary governments? What are the obstacles that prevent this?

I do not believe we are currently qualified for parliamentary government, because such governments require parties with political, economic and social programs. These are not abundant in Parliament. The parliamentary blocs are readily soluble and are not based on principles and programs, but rather on personal alliances, public relations among the MPs, and transient personal interests.

Q: Prime Minister Al-Nusur came with a government that was described as “lean.” He promised to incorporate MPs in the upcoming reshuffle. Do you think that he will keep his promise, or that his rhetoric was merely political maneuvering to win the chamber’s confidence?

I believe that amending the government after six months—as the prime minister says he will do—is a way of deceiving MPs in order to get absolute confidence from them. The king has said that the government will remain for four years, which is the term for the present Chamber of Deputies. He [Al-Nusur] is thus ensuring that he will remain in government throughout that period. This discourse shows a neglect of the intelligence of the MPs, and a disrespect of the chamber. It is a form of bribery, so that the MPs would vie to support the government.

Q: The opposition parties have said that they consider this an insult to the MPs. Do you think that the MPs would seek revenge for this?

Yes, the opposition parties are justified in this. Honestly, the statement by the prime minister regarding the reshuffling of the government and the introduction of MPs [into it] is the biggest insult to the chamber and its members. As I have stated, it shows his contempt for them.

Q: As deputy speaker, what do you think the chamber’s priorities will be during the coming session?

The chamber’s priorities for the coming session include seeking to issue a law for new elections that ensures real representation for all Jordanian people, regardless of segments, origins and roots. It should reflect the real dimensions of our demography. [The priorities also include] preventing any laws being passed that might increase the burdensome cost of living for citizens, especially in raising taxes, tariffs and prices, specifically those regarding fuel and electricity.

Q: Do you believe that the economic situation will improve in the coming years? What could be the indications for such improvement under the existing circumstances?

Improving the economic situation in Jordan depends on the amount of economic support that can be obtained from abroad, especially from sisterly countries in the Gulf—particularly Saudi Arabia—because they are the countries that support Jordan most. We hope that this assistance and backing will continue. This depends on the extent of the government’s success in attracting investments that can contribute to economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities. This, in turn, is tied to political stability in the region, which is going through a historical phase fraught with surprises.

Q: Some members of the chamber have attacked the state of Qatar and other Gulf countries, accusing them of standing behind the eruption of the Syrian crisis. What is your reply to them?

This position is not being propagated within the chamber, and it is not the position of all its members. It represents a limited number of members who do not have a numerical weight in the chamber, and they are solely responsible for their own stance. Many members in the chamber—who represent the majority—differ with them in this opinion. In my view, taking this stance would involve Jordan in a political crisis with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which we can do without. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the countries supporting Jordan, and only a prejudiced person would deny this. On this occasion, I salute the Saudi government and the Custodian of the Two Mosques for having always stood on the side of the Jordanian people, and having consistently supported Jordan.

(Ed.: It was Atiyah who collected the signatures of 84 deputies in a petition to issue a statement in praise of Jordan’s brothers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council for their support of Jordan.)

Q: You were one of the founders of the Watan parliamentary bloc. Why did you withdraw from it?

I found that when I am independent from parliamentary blocs I have more freedom of movement, and that I can personally take responsibility for my political stances. The bloc may have positions that I do not approve of, but which I assume. Likewise, I may have opinions and positions that the bloc does not approve of, but which would nonetheless be attributed to it. This situation could embarrass either me or the bloc.

Q: You have been an MP for five consecutive elections. What is the secret behind your acquisition of the highest number votes in the kingdom?

It is my honesty with my electoral base, honoring of my pledges and promises, sympathizing with the woes of the people, and not closing my doors to them, as well as reflecting their conscience and feelings truthfully and honestly on political attitudes. They have tested my sincerity more than once during these five elections. This has made them trust me and my promises. God willing, I shall keep my pledges to them. I shall not let them down and I shall remain loyal to them.

Q: Do you believe that the present chamber is different from the previous chambers? Is it, in your opinion, simply obedient to the government?

We are still at the beginning, and the government is new. No real test of the chamber has taken place yet—it will be verified in the coming days. It is too early now to judge this chamber, which is three months old.

Q: How is the current chamber expected to contribute to Jordanian politics?

This chamber will be a milestone in Jordan’s political life. Either it will meet the historic level of responsibility entrusted to it—something that would bolster the people’s confidence in it—or it will fail in this regard, leaving the people without hope for any real reform. That is why this chamber must seek to draft laws and legislation that contribute to better political conditions. Its performance must be up to the level the people expect from it. Hopefully, the chamber will be successful in its mission.