AMMAN // Washington has long leaned on Jordan as a reliable ally, but its stability looks less certain these days.
King Abdullah faces challenges such as an ailing economy, spillover from Syria’s civil war and a protest movement impatient with the pace of political reform.
The king faces a dilemma that he has managed to navigate adeptly for years: whether to extend more political power to the majority of Jordanians who are of Palestinian origin – they are currently under-represented in parliament. Or, does he maintain the tilt that favours his traditional tribal support base, whose leaders are keen there be no dilution of their power. So far, the king appears to have opted for more of the same.
He has formed five governments since the Arab Spring began in December 2010. Last month, he dissolved parliament ahead of elections scheduled for early next year. The opposition Muslim Brotherhood has threatened to boycott the polls unless they are accompanied by electoral reform.
Washington faces a familiar dilemma, too. Pressing for reform in Jordan would be desirable now, since it would serve to prevent a political explosion later. Then again, what if some reforms only increase the appetite for more, leading to an unleashing of forces that destabilise a longtime friend?