Jordan passes new constitutional amendment

Jordan creates 'National Security Council' with new constitutional amendment
3 min read
07 January, 2022
The National Security and Foreign Policy Council has sweeping new powers to oversee defence, security and foreign policy issues.
Civil society activists warned the new body would usurp the powers of the elected parliament.

Jordan’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment on Thursday which would create a “National Security and Foreign Policy Council” to oversee security, defence and foreign policy matters.

The body centralises decision-making around the state’s “higher affairs” in the council, where previously they had been dispersed over various ministries and the parliament.

The new council will be led by the Prime Minister, but meet at the request of the king, convene in his presence and its decisions would be enforceable only after the king signs off on them.

The council will be staffed by the PM, Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior, the head of the army, intelligence and public security directorate, as well as two members chosen by the king. In effect, this means all members of the council will have been picked by the monarch, as the king appoints all of the above ministers and security officials to their positions.

The creation of the council has invited criticism from Jordanian civil society activists, who described it as a usurpation of the elected parliament’s powers and a move away from democracy.  

“This marginalises the role of the government and the cabinet, and puts more powers in the hands of the king or unelected, unaccountable bodies in our system,” Oraib Rantawi, founder and director of the Amman-based al-Quds Center for Political Studies and former member of the “Political Modernisation Committee”, told The New Arab.

“The council is supposed to handle foreign policy, security, defence and major economic trends. What’s left for the government? To collect the garbage?” Rantawi said.

Other members of the Political Modernisation Committee said that the national security council will be a way to insulate decision-making on security issues from the whims of the elected parliament.

In an interview with outlet Arabi-21, a member of the senate Muhammad al-Momani, said that “sovereign security, military and diplomatic affairs must be above partisan tensions,” suggesting the council would help avoid “partisan” issues.

Jordan’s parliament approved a raft of constitutional amendments this week, ranging from the ability of MPs to buy property, to making the constitution gender sensitive and giving the king new powers to appoint and dismiss officials.

Amendments were not without controversy, with a dispute over the addition of the word “Jordanian women” to the parliament erupting into a fistfight on 28 Dec.

Parliament previously rejected a constitutional amendment that would have appointed the king as head of the national security council. The head of the constitutional reform committee said that the amendment would have been redundant as the king’s status as the head of the executive branch already includes the power of the council.

Parliament has yet to vote on the constitutional amendments regarding elections and political parties, which stem from recommendations made by the Political Modernisation Committee.