Review of Proposed Amendments to Jordanian Constitution | Editor's Choice | Ammon News



Review of Proposed Amendments to Jordanian Constitution


[8/15/2011 12:00:00 AM]

By Banan Malkawi

AMMONNEWS - The Royal Committee to Review the Texts of the Jordanian Constitution is set to present its proposed constitutional amendments to King Abdullah II during an iftaar on Sunday evening.

The Royal Committee to Review the Texts of the Jordanian Constitution was formed last April, months after Jordanians took to the street demanding political and economic reforms to be spearheaded by a return to the so-called 1952 constitution.

Press headlines on Sunday highlighted the long-awaited event: presenting the proposed amendments to the King during an Iftaar hosted by the King in the presence of royal family members, state officials, foreign diplomats, and dignitaries.

The proposed amendments will then be referred to the state cabinet, which in turn will refer it to the Lower House of Parliament as a draft law to be endorsed during the current extraordinary session, or a second extraordinary session that would be summoned by Royal Decree later this fall.

The Royal Committee is scheduled to hold a press conference on Tuesday to present the proposed constitutional amendments.

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Below is a review of the prominent amendments proposed to the constitution as prepared by the editor of Ammon News English:

* Article 70: Lowering the minimum age allowed for candidacy to run for a seat in parliament from 30 to 25 calendar years of age.

* Canceling the last three paragraphs of Article 73 regarding dissolving the Lower House, including the provisions that give the King jurisdiction to postpone the holding of general elections if a force majeure has occurred which the Council of Ministers considers as rendering the holding of elections impossible, and the provisions permitting the king to reinstate and convene the dissolved Chamber in force majeure cases.

* Adding a provision to Article 74 stipulating that the cabinet in office at the time that the parliament is dissolved must submit its resignation within one week of the date of Lower House dissolution.

* Establishing a constitutional court located in Amman that would be considered an independent judicial commission made up of 9 members appointed by Royal Decree who would serve renewable 4-year terms, yet may not be removed from their posts during their term. (Article 58).

- A comprehensive legislative description of the jurisdiction and duties of the Constitutional court is presented in Articles 58-61, including jurisprudence and oversight on the constitutionality of laws and regulations. Members of the Cabinet, Senate, and Lower of Parliament have the right to appeal constitutionality of laws and regulations.

* The jurisdiction to interpret the constitution given to the constitutional court cancels the role of the High Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution.

* Annulling the second jurisdiction of the High Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution related to trial of ministers.

* The committee recommended that ministers would be tried in civil courts i accordance with the Jordanian penal code.

* Compulsory education stipulated 10 years of education (1st-10th grade) rather than elementary education.

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CHAPTER TWO: Rights and Duties of Jordanians

* Amending Article 6 (i), to include (sex) following language or religion: in "Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion.


* Adding paragraph 2 to Article 6 to state: "Defense of the nation, its land, unity of its people, and preservation of social peace is a sacred duty on every Jordanian."

* Adding Paragraph 4 to Article 6 to state: "The family is the basis of society, which stands on the foundation of religion, morals, and love of the nation. The law preserves the family's legal entity and strengthens its bonds, values, and protects motherhood and childhood, generations, and people with disabilities and protects them from exploitation.

* Adding Paragraph 2 to Article 7 (Personal freedom shall be guaranteed). Paragraph 2 stipulates that any violation of the rights or public freedoms or the sanctity of the private life of Jordanians will be considered a crime punishable by law.

* Amending Article 8 to state that no person may be arrested, detained, or imprisoned, or his/her freedom restricted, or prevented from movement, except in accordance with the provisions of the law (current constitution stipulates: "No person may be detained or imprisoned except in accordance with the provisions of the law."

* Adding Paragraph 2 to Article 8 to state: Every person that is arrested, detained, or his freedom restricted, must be treated in amasser that preserves human dignity, must not be physically or mentally harmed, and must not be detained except in places that fall under laws that regulate prisons. Anything that a person says under what has been presented, or threatens of the provision above, will not be considered liable.

* Addition of phrase "or any part of it" in Article 11 to state "No property of any person [or any part of it] may be expropriated except for purposes of public utility and in consideration of a just compensation, as may be prescribed by law."

* Language amendment to Article 15 guaranteeing freedom of opinion. Adding Paragraph 2 to state: "The State shall guarantee to Jordanians the freedom of scientific research, literary, artistic, and cultural creativity in a manner that does not violate public regulations and decency.

* Amending Paragraph 3 of Article 15 to state: Freedom of the press, print, and publishing, media outlets shall be ensured within the limits of the law.

- Keeping paragraph (3) Newspapers shall not be suspended from publication nor shall their permits be revoked except in accordance with the provisions of the law.

* Proposed amendment to paragraph (5) Article (15) to include "communication outlets", to stipulate: "In the event of the declaration of martial law or a state of emergency, a limited censorship on newspapers, publications, books and broadcasts [and communication outlets] in matters affecting public safety and national defence may be imposed by law.


* Article 16: Addition of "Professional Associations" before the phrase [political parties] to Article 16 (2) to state: (ii) Jordanians are entitled to establish societies [and professional associations] and political parties provided that the objects of such societies and parties are lawful, their methods peaceful, and their by-laws not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.


* Amending Article 18 regarding secrecy of private communications: addition of phrase "and other means of communications", and "confiscation", and substituting the phrase "except by judicial order in accordance with the law" instead of "except in circumstances prescribed by law."

The Amended Article 18 would state: "All postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications [and other means of communication] shall be treated as secret and as such shall not be subject to censorship or suspension [or confiscation] except by judicial order in accordance with the law."

* Amending Article 20 to make primary education (10 years: Grades 1-10) compulsory for Jordanians and free of charge in Government schools (current constitution stipulates elementary education as compulsory).

* The Royal Committee proposed adding the phrase "independent" to Article 27, to state: "The [independent] Judicial Power shall be exercised by the courts of law in their varying types and degrees. All judgements shall be given in accordance with the law and pronounced in the name of the King.

CHAPTER FOUR: THE KING AND HIS PREROGATIVES

* The committee recommended keeping of all articles pertaining the prerogatives of the King, except Article 33 (which was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1396 dated 1/9/1958.

* Amending Article 33 which gives power to the King to declare war, conclude peace, and ratify treaties and agreements, recommending amending paragraph ii which stipulates that treaties and agreements which involve financial commitments to the Treasury or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians shall not be valid unless approved by the National Assembly. In no circumstances shall any secret terms contained in any treaty or agreement be contrary to their overt terms.

* The proposed amendment changes Paragraph ii to the effect that treaties and agreements of peace, alliance, trade, and other treaties which involve changes of state lands or partiality of sovereignty rights or bears commitment to the treasury or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians shall not be valid unless approved by the National Assembly. In no circumstances shall any secret terms contained in any treaty or agreement be contrary to their overt terms.

CHAPTER FOUR PART II: MINISTERS

* Amending Article 42 "No person shall be appointed a Minister unless he is a Jordanian" adding the stipulation that a Minister must not hold foreign nationality.

* Canceling the phrase "or any other legislation" in Article 45, which was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1396 of 1/9/1958. The proposed Article 45 would state:


(i) * The Council of Ministers shall be entrusted with the responsibility of administering all affairs of the State, internal and external, with the exception of such matters as are or may be entrusted by the present Constitution to any other person or body.


THE GOVERNMENT AND VOTES OF CONFIDENCE

* Amending Article 50 regarding the resignation or dismissal of the Prime Minister, to state that " In the event of the resignation or dismissal of the Prime Minister from his office, all Ministers shall be [legally]considered resigned.

* Amending Article 54 Paragraph (iii) [Which was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1380 of 4/5/1958], canceling the phrase " If the Chamber of Deputies is not in session at the time, or stands dissolved, the Speech from the Throne shall be considered to be a statement of its policy for the purposes of this Article."

Substituting it with Paragraph 4 and 5 which would stipulate: (iv) If the Chamber of Deputies is not in session at the time, it would be summoned to an extraordinary session, and the Ministry shall place before the Chamber of Deputies a statement of its policy and request a vote of confidence on the basis of the said statement within one month of its formation. And (v) If the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved, the Ministry shall place its statement of policy and request a vote of confidence within one month after the new Chamber convenes."

TRIAL OF MINISTERS

* Amending Article 55. As the proposed amendments annuls the High Tribunal, Ministers in the proposed amendments shall be tried for offenses which may be attributed to them in the course of the performance of their duties before a civil appeals court in the capital Amman. A commission of five judges appointed by the Judicial Council shall reside over the trial and issue its verdicts by a majority vote.

* Amending Article 56 regarding impeachment of ministers. The proposed amendment lowers the number of deputies needed to refer a minister to public prosecution from two-thirds majority, to 50 percent + 1, and cancelled the stipulation that Deputies shall appoint, from among its members, deputies who shall present the impeachment to, and proceed before, the High Tribunal, which would be cancelled based on proposed amendments.

* Amending Article 57 regarding the trial of ministers by a High Tribunal. After the proposed amendments annul the work of the High Tribunal, proposed Article 57 stipulates that the civil Appeals Court would try ministers in accordance with the penal code, and identifies - by special law - the crimes that Ministers would be accountable to in cases not covered by the penal code.

Paragraph (ii) would stipulate that a Minister charged by the public prosecution shall not be suspended from work until a final verdict is issued incriminating the minister. Te resignation of the Minister does not prevent filing law suits against him/her, or the continuation of his/her trial.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

By virtue of the proposed constitutional amendments, Article 58-61 are amended to replace explanation of the prerogatives of the High Tribunal, to describe the formation, duties, and prerogatives of the Constitutional Court proposed to be established by the Royal Committee.


INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO OVERSEE ELECTIONS

* Amending Article 67 regarding parliamentary elections, adding a provision to have an independent commission to oversee the elections. Article 67 stipulates that The Chamber of Deputies shall consist of members elected by secret ballot in a general direct election and in accordance with the provisions of an Electoral Law which shall ensure the following principles:

(i) An independent commission to oversee the elections.
(ii) The right of candidates to supervise the process of election.
(iii) The punishment of any person who may adversely influence the will of voters.
(iv) The integrity of the election.

HOUSE SPEAKERSHIP

* Amending Article 69 to extend the House speakership from a period of one calendar year to two calendar years, with possibility of re-election.

PARLIAMENT CANDIDACY

* Article 70: Lowering the minimum age allowed for candidacy to run for a seat in parliament from 30 to 25 calendar years of age.

* Amending Article 71: The judicial branch shall have jurisdiction to determine the validity of the election of members of the Chamber of Deputies. Any voter shall have the right to present a petition to the Court of First Instance in his/her constituency within fifteen days of the announcement of the results of the election in the Official Gazette in his/her constituency setting out the legal grounds for invalidating the election of any deputy.

The current constitution gives the Chamber of Deputies the right to determine the validity of the election of its members. The amendment further proposes adding a provision of forming a committee of three judges to look into the petition, it's decisions are to be final and may not be appealed. The committee is to issue its verdicts within 30 days of the recording of the petition.

DISSOLUTION OF CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES

* The Royal Committee proposed canceling the last three paragraphs of Article 73 regarding the King's prerogative to dissolve the Lower House, [which were amended from the 1952 constitution in the Official Gazette No. 2523 of 10/11/1974 and re-amended in the Official Gazette No. 2605 of 7/2/1976, and Paragraph (iv) as amended in the official Gazette No. 2605 of 7/2/1976, and Paragraph (v) which was added per amendment in the Official Gazette No. 3201 of 9/1/1984).

They include the provisions that give the King jurisdiction to postpone the holding of general elections if a force majeure has occurred which the Council of Ministers considers as rendering the holding of elections impossible, and the provisions permitting the king to reinstate and convene the dissolved Chamber in force majeure cases.

* Adding a provision to Article 74 stipulating that the cabinet in office at the time that the parliament is dissolved must submit its resignation within one week of the date of Lower House dissolution. The proposed amendment also cancels the phrase "A Minister who intends to nominate himself for election shall resign fifteen days atlas before the beginning of nomination." [which was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1179 of 17/14/1954 and No. 1380 of 4/5/1958].


NO FOREIGN NATIONALITY TO PARLIAMENT MEMBERS

* Amending Article 75 regarding the candidates' qualifications for both the Upper and Lower of Parliament, stipulating in paragraph 1(b) that no person shall become a Senator or Deputy who holds a foreign nationality (the current provision stipulates that no person shall become Senator or Deputy who claims foreign nationality or protection.

* Amending Article 75 Paragraph (ii), barring any member of parliament during his or her term to contract with the government, state entities or companies, or public officials, or to hold shares in the entity regardless of wether the person is an investor, supplier, or contractor, either in person or by deputizing.

The current provision stipulates Article 75 (vi) Who has a material interest in any contract, other than a contract or lease of land and property, with any Department of Government, provided that this provision shall not apply to any shareholder in a company of more than ten members.

EXTENDING NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SESSION

* Amending Article 78 Paragraph (iii) extending the ordinary session of the National Assembly from four months to six months. [This article was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1243 of 16/10/1955].

* Amending Article 84 Paragraph (i) to stipulate the attendance of the absolute majority of members of either House for a meeting of either House to be considered duly constituted, rather than a two-thirds majority attendance. [This article was amended in the Official Gazette No. 1179 of 17/4/1954].

FILLING VACANT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SEATS

* The Royal Committee proposed keeping of the first paragraph of Article 88 regarding filling a vacant seat in the Senate or int eh Chamber of Deputies by death or resignation or any other reason.

- Yet it proposed canceling the second paragraph which stipulates: "However, if a seat in the Chamber of Deputies becomes vacant for any constituency for any reason and should there be force majeure on account of which the Council of Ministers considers that rendering a by election to fill that seat is impossible, the Chamber of Deputies, by the absolute majority of its members and within one month of its being notified thereof, shall elect a member to fill the said seat from amongst the inhabitants of the said constituency to who the provisions of the Constitution are applicable and in the manner the Chamber deems appropriate." [This article was amended in the Official Gazette No. 2414 dated 8/4/1973].

* Article 89: The Royal Committee proposed adding Article 29 to the Articles stipulated in Article 89 regarding the circumstances under which the Senate and Chamber of Deputies may hold a joint meeting. Article 29 states: "The King shall upon his succession to the Throne take an oath before the National Assembly, which shall be convened under the chairmanship of the Speaker of the Senate, to respect and observe the Constitution and be loyal to the Nation."

GOVERNMENT PROVISIONAL LAWS

* Amending Article 94: The Royal Committee proposed amending Article 94 - which has stirred wide criticism against former governments for excessive issuance of temporary laws - as follows:

The current constitution Article 94 states:


Article 94 (i) * In cases where the National Assembly is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers has, with the approval of the King, the power to issue provisional laws covering matters which require necessary measures which admit of no delay or which necessitate expenditures incapable of postponement. Such provisional laws, which shall not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, shall have the force of law, provided that they are placed before the Assembly at the beginning of its next session, and the Assembly may approve or amend such laws. In the event of the rejection of such provisional laws, the Council of Ministers shall, with the approval of the King, immediately declare their nullity, and from the date of such declaration these provisional laws shall cease to have force provided that such nullity shall not affect any contracts or acquired rights.

(ii) Provisional laws shall have the same force and effect as laws enacted in accordance with paragraph (ii) of Article (93) of this Constitution. [As amended in the Official Gazette No. 1380 of 4/5/1958]


The proposed amended Article 94 would stipulate "In cases where the National Assembly is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers has, with the approval of the King, the power to issue provisional laws to face the following emergencies
1- General Disasters
2- Cases of War and Emergencies
3- Necessary expenditures incapable of postponement.

Such provisional laws, which shall not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, shall have the force of law, provided that they are placed before the Assembly at the beginning of its next session. In the event of the rejection of such provisional laws, the Council of Ministers shall, with the approval of the King, immediately declare their nullity, and from the date of such declaration these provisional laws shall cease to have force provided that such nullity shall not affect any contracts or acquired rights.

(ii) Provisional laws shall have the same force and effect as laws enacted in accordance with of Article (93) of this Constitution.



CHAPTER SIX: THE JUDICIARY

* The Royal Committee proposed adding the phrase "independent" to Article 27, to state: "The [independent] Judicial Power shall be exercised by the courts of law in their varying types and degrees. All judgements shall be given in accordance with the law and pronounced in the name of the King.

APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES

* Article 98: Addition of Paragraph (ii) to Article 98 which states: "Judges of the Civil and Sharia Courts shall be appointed and dismissed by a Royal Decree in accordance with the provisions of the law."

The Royal Committee proposed adding a second paragraph stating that "A Judicial Council is to be formed by a law to handle affairs related to civil courts, and the Judicial Council alone has the right to appoint civil judges."

* Article 100: Addition of phrase "the Law of the High Court of Justice shall include a provision that administrative justice must be of two categories" added to the current Article 100, which stipulates: "The establishment of the various courts, their categories, their divisions, their jurisdiction and their administration shall be by virtue of a special law, provided that such law provides for the establishment of a High Court of Justice."

* Article 101: The Royal Committee proposed keeping Paragraph (i), amending Paragraph (ii) to state "The sitting of the courts shall be public unless the court decides that it should sit in camera in the interest of public order or morals," adding the phrase
"in all cases, the declaration of the verdict shall be done in a public session."
The Royal Committee also proposed adding a paragraph that states: "No civilian shall be tried in a criminal case unless all the judges are civil judges, with the exception of grand treason, espionage, and terrorism."
Another paragraph proposed to be added to Article 101 states "A defendant is innocent until proven guilty."

* Addition to Article 109 regarding Tribunals of Religious Communities: The Royal Committee proposed adding the phrase "in the court trial before it and the conditions of appointing its judges" to the end of paragraph (ii), which states: "Such laws shall determine the procedure to be followed by the Tribunals of the Religious Communities."

JURISDICTION OF THE STATE SECURITY COURT

* Adding to Article 110 a second paragraph that stipulates the jurisdiction of the special State Security Court to specialize only in Grand Treason, Espionage, and Terrorism.

- The current Article 110 states: "Special Courts shall exercise their jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of the laws constituting them."





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  • 1 The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution By Anonymous 8/14/2011 10:26:04 PM

    To the Editor/Banan: Happy Ramadan. I'm e-mailing the following "piece", hopefully you'll find it of interest to Ammons' readers and that you would publish it as an article written by Anonymous.Many thanks.The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution Call for Amendments!Today, the "bloody" struggle in the Arab world is between the generations of the 20th century and the 21st century. It is between the so-called "old guards" conservatives who fear change (the age of 60s and above) and the youthful high tech "digital" generation who is fearless of change and dying for change. The "old" wants to preserve the old system with minimum reform and the "young" wants to change the system with meaningful reform. Fortunately for Jordan, and unlike most other Arab leaders, HM King Abdullah11 is considered a leading modern and high tech/"digital" leader who strives for change to make Jordan a "better" country. But Jordan's reform dilemma is serious. Reviewing the proposed amendments to the constitution by the chairman and members of the Royal Committee simply shows that Jordan's political system shall remain an absolutist monarchy and that is likely to raise questions. Perhaps the amendments, with all due respect, are reflection of the age of the majority members of the Committee. That is not necessarily bad, wisdom comes with age! But, if we learned anything from the "Arab Spring", the Arabs are fed-up with "patriarchical" systems and the lack of accountability and transparency. They want their regime to reflect the people's desires and aspirations and that is why they want to be free to have at least a "say" in their executive, legislative and judicial systems. To be fair, and since Jordan lives in a very tough neighborhood, Jordan's monarchical system must remain a strong system. But, to meet some of the reasonable demands of the "opposition" and to keep Jordan stable, safe and strong, Jordanian "elites"/leaders--political, economic, social...etc.-- need to find a balanced appraoch towards a "balanced" and "enforcable"/respected constitution (call it a centerist approach) between the generations of the "old" and the "Arab Spring"! In short, the constitution must be based on the wisdom of the "old" and the energy and brains of the "youth". In view of the changes in the region, and considering the national interest of Jordan under the rule of the Hashemites, a real political reform is a must, unavoidable and achievable. As they say, when there is a will there is a way.

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