Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is the government angry?

Various reports are suggesting that the government is angry with the rate of achievement during this parliamentary session. These reports indicate that the parliament is not as “cooperative” as it “should” be with the government, and not completing new legislations at a fast enough rate.

In most parliamentary systems in the world, it is the government that worries about whether the parliament is unhappy, and not the other way around. In Jordan, the prime minister can recommend to the king to dissolve the parliament, which as been threatened in the past. Rarely does the parliament exercise its right to withdraw confidence from the government, although this has been threatened in the past as well.

The government has been less than accommodating to the government than is usual. Although they approved the terror prevention law and the financial disclosure law (which has finally been approved by the senate), a whole host of other laws were either rejected or rewritten to the point that they lost their purpose.

For example, they approved changing the sales tax law, but only after deleting fuel and cement from the list of commodities to which it was to be applied. The senate subsequently rejected the whole legislation, because of it needed “reconsideration”. Reconsideration could have been done by the senate itself, but of course that was not the point. Without including fuel and cement in the sales tax, the reason for modifying the law is lost. This way, after the “reconsideration” is done, the government can send it back to the house with the original list of commodities, including fuel. The next time, they will exert greater pressure to impose the tax on fuel and cement.

The parliament went against the government on the income tax law as well. They approved the legislation only after significant modifications. These included raising deductions from the government’s proposed JD 13000 per year up to JD 20000. They also raised the tax on banks and financial institutions to 35% instead of the government’s 25%. No complaints here.

The deputies went overboard in their discussion of the Fatwa and Mosque sermon and teaching laws. The fatwa law is supposed to put an end to the fatwa bazaar inflicting society. Under the government proposed law, issuance of a fatwa became under the jurisdiction of a state appointed board. The deputies changed the law to allow for anybody “qualified” to issue a fatwa, which defeats the purpose of the legislation. The senate rejected this modification and sent it back to the house.

The Mosque sermon and teaching law gives the minister of religious affairs (awqaf) the right to approve preachers and teachers in mosques, and prevent others from taking the pulpit. This is needed to control the teaching and preaching of extremist ideology in mosques. The deputies kept the clause allowing the minister to appoint preachers, but left out teachers from the law. Again, this defeats the purpose. The senate rejected the modification and sent it back to the house. Jamil Nimri has suggested that both the fatwa and preaching laws should be passed without the modifications introduced by the house. Today the house approved including mosque teachers as well as preachers in the law.

So, the house has had both good and bad moments. The system has fail safes that seem to work well. I would neither trust the senate nor the house alone, but working together they seem to keep each other in line.

As for the government being unhappy, there is no clause in the constitution that states that the parliament should have the approval of the government. Expecting to pass 42 laws in a month was unrealistic to begin with. The legislative branch should never become a rubber stamp, as Fahd Khitan and I have said before.


At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol it is kind of backwards, isn't it?

And they do it and even make hinting statements that expose it in such an obvious manner. Shuf el waqa7a ya akhi :D

At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it's the perception that the government is trying to push reforms and it's being held back by conservative lawmakers. how far this perception is true is highly debatable and dependent on the type of bills the government has on it's plate.

anyways, the conflict is good. it's supposed to be there. we should be concerned if it wasn't there. although technically the conflict is a bit backwards I agree, but nevertheless any type of conflict inspires debate which is something that was needed with topics such as anti-terrorism and kuthba laws. and i suppose at the very least we should consider an extraordinary session of parliament to discuss such laws that the government could've easily inacted as temporary laws without parliamentary a step in the right direction.

we have yet to see where it will take us.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: It is quite amazing, isn't it?

Nas: Reform means different things to different people. The only way to do something correctly is to respect the laws and the constitution.

I agree that conflict is good, although it should be done playing by the rules.

I think we are going in the right direction, as long as nobody loses their cool.

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Reform means different things to different people"

hence my use of the word 'perception' ;-)

"although it should be done playing by the rules."

absolutely true, although as you said i think they were trying to fast track too much legislation in too short a time. the expectations were a bit off

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any idea why the unhappy government wants these laws so rapidly?

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Nas: If the government wants to be perceived as reformist, it can do many things within the legal framework that already exists. There are many things that can be reformed through administrative decisions rather than changes in laws. It would be sad if every new government needed to change the laws to reform things.

Omar: I suppose that it is easier to bully parliament than to reform the civil service, which is really what they should be doing.

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us give the parliament some credit for surviving the Badran government and perhaps the Bakhit government as well.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hatem: MP's are politicians whose game is survival. PM's are appointees with more limited political experience, which puts them at a disadvantage.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are many things that can be reformed through administrative decisions rather than changes in laws. It would be sad if every new government needed to change the laws to reform things."

some laws need to be changed in order to address the current needs and current situation and we have plenty of antiquated laws as you well know. that being said, I agree the government should be reforming it's internal institutions but i'm just not sure if that should be priority number one at the expense of everything else.

and like i said, the fact that parliament was sought out for the inclusion of these bills is a positive sign given the history of temporary laws.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember way back when... the Badran Government was still in office..the parliament was going through a perilous period of being dissolved.Every body back then was thinking that it was a matter of time before the king sit down and issue the decree with which the parliament would become erstwhile, but then once the Badran government was out of the picture and things somewhat were calmed down, the parliament managed to stay in power at least for the duration of its remaining term. This isn't in itself a guarantee that it is fully immuned from being exposed to a sudden unexpected dissolution.I don't know how did the parliament managed to survive but to its credit it did. As far as reform is concerned, it would have to be gradual and incremental, any rushing would cause the effort to crumble and then back to the drawing board all over again.

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Nas: I think that the days of temporary laws are over, especially since what happened with Badran's four laws and their rejection by parliament.

As for priorities, I am simply saying that there are other things to do besides change laws, and pinning the success of the government on enacting new legislation is problematic.

Hatem: I think that parliamentary experiment should be allowed to mature. Dissolving (or even threatening to dissolve) parliament is not a desirable tool to achieve democracy. Besides, their term will end in a few months any way.

At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

khalaf, im not so sure the days of temporary laws are entirely over, too soon to tell i suppose. but i agree with you about priorities. while im intruiged by the legislative process im more concerned with policy and its implementation. thats where all the work gets done (or doesnt)


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