Chapter 4. Government and Politics
Mosaic of the city of Amman, or Philadelphia, from the Umm ar Rasas
pavement in a Byzantine church, c. 780
IN LATE 1989, KING HUSSEIN ibn Talal ibn Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi
remained in firm control of Jordan's political system as the central policymaker
and legislative and executive authority. He maintained tight control over key
government functions, such as national defense, internal security, justice, and
foreign affairs. Crown Prince Hasan, the king's younger brother and heir
apparent, complemented the small, Hussein-centered circle of power in his role
as the king's right-hand man, especially in the areas of economy and
Hussein's main power base continued to rest on the beduindominated army,
which had been loyal to the Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) family for seven
decades. Another source of strength was his astute ability to balance
sociopolitical interests at home. Equally important, Hussein was Jordan's most
accomplished diplomatnegotiator . During the 1980s, Hussein's autocracy also was
substantially bolstered by his rapprochement with the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO). This significant development greatly reduced the threat to
Hussein's rule posed since 1970 by various Palestinian guerrilla groups. Some
groups, however, notably the Black September and Abu Nidal factions, continued
to seek the overthrow of the entire monarchical structure.
(see Glossary) occupied a dominant place in the existing power structure.
Hussein's palace staff and his top civil, judicial, and military officials were
mostly Transjordanians. Although there was a Palestinian
(see Glossary) presence on the periphery of power, the Palestinians' continued
exclusion from substantive decision-making positions tended to alienate the
Palestinian community and served as a potential source of political instability.
Hussein's decision in July 1988 to renounce Jordan's claim to sovereignty over
Bank (see Glossary) and his subsequent recognition of the PLO's declaration
of an independent Palestine may further affect the systemic integrity of Jordan
because the Palestinians living on the East Bank (see
Glossary) must choose whether they want Jordanian or Palestinian nationality.
Another source of political instability for Hussein's regime at the close of
the 1980s was the continued severe recession that had plagued the economy since
the mid-1980s. This economic retrenchment was in sharp contrast to the economic
growth experienced during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The combination of
high inflation and high unemployment rates contributed to the pervasive sense of
dissatisfaction that erupted in major antigovernment riots in several cities and
towns in April 1989. Although all Jordanians were adversely affected by rising
prices and falling income, the Palestinians living in refugee camps--most of
whom were poor before the recession--bore the brunt of the economic decline.
Their economic frustrations helped reinforce their political alienation.
Data as of December 1989