Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population. Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 war and defeated Palestinian rebels who attempted to overthrow the monarchy in 1970. King HUSSEIN in 1988 permanently relinquished Jordanian claims to the West Bank – called “The 1988 Disengagement Decision.” In 1989, he reinstituted parliamentary elections and initiated a gradual political liberalization and legalized political parties in 1992. In 1994, he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, King HUSSEIN’s eldest son, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and implemented some economic and political reforms. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. In 2003, Jordan staunchly supported the Coalition ouster of SADDAM Husayn in Iraq and, following the outbreak of insurgent violence in Iraq, absorbed thousands of displaced Iraqis. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Beginning in January 2011 in the wake of unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, as many as several thousand Jordanians staged weekly demonstrations and marches in Amman and other cities throughout Jordan to push for political reforms and protest against government corruption, rising prices, rampant poverty, and high unemployment. In response, King ABDALLAH replaced his prime minister four times and formed two commissions – one to propose specific reforms to Jordan’s electoral and political party laws, and the other to consider limited constitutional amendments. In a televised speech in June 2011, King ABDULLAH announced plans to work toward transferring authority for appointing future prime ministers and cabinet ministers to parliament; in a subsequent announcement, he outlined a revised political parties law intended to encourage greater political participation. Protesters and opposition elements generally acknowledged those measures as steps in the right direction, but many continue to push for greater limits on the king’s authority and to fight against government corruption. A royal decree issued in September 2011 approved constitutional amendments passed by the Parliament aimed at strengthening a more independent judiciary and established a constitutional court and independent election commission to oversee municipal and parliamentary elections. In October 2011, King ABDALLAH dismissed the Jordanian cabinet and replaced the prime minister in response to widespread public dissatisfaction with government performance and escalating criticism of the premier because of public concerns over his reported involvement in corruption. Parliamentary elections held in January 2013 were overseen by the newly established Independent Electoral Commission and resulted in the election of 150 members to the Lower House of Parliament.
Location – Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia, between Israel (to the west) and Iraq
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