Jordan is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein is a Hashemite whose lineage can be traced back to the Prophet and specifically to Ali and Fatima's son Hassan's branch.
The revised Constitution of 1952 states that the nation is the source of all powers. Although Article 30 states that the king is immune from any liability and responsibility, the fact that Jordan is not an absolute but constitutional monarchy limits the king’s powers. An independent judiciary, headed by the Court of Cassation (the Supreme Court of Appeal), and two documents, namely, the constitution and the National Charter, which contains guidelines for the conduct of political party activities, uphold political pluralism and the supremacy of the law. The signing of the National Charter by the king and the leaders of the main political groups in 1991 meant that political parties were permitted in exchange for the acceptance of the constitution and the monarchy.
Separation of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers
The king is the head of the state and the head of government; he appoints both the prime minister and the cabinet. The king also has extensive lawmaking powers that include the appointment of senators, ratification of laws, abolition of the parliament, and postponement of House elections. In cases where the parliament is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers, with the approval of the king, has the power to issue provisional laws, which have the force of law. The king also receives foreign envoys, confers honors and medals for meritorious service, grants special pardons and remits sentences. He is the Supreme Commander of the armed, naval and air forces, declaring war, concluding peace and signing treaties.
Important mechanisms instituting a system of checks and balances are now in place in Jordan. One significant power given to the House of Representatives alone is the right to cast a vote of confidence in the cabinet. Moreover, the parliament has the power to override the monarch’s veto by a two-thirds majority in both houses. The legislative branch has also engaged in investigating corruption charges of several prominent members of the political elite in recent years. The High Tribunal, composed of Senate members and senior judges, has the right to question and try ministers. Similarly, legislative acts may undergo judicial review by the High Tribunal and a Special Tribunal consisting of highest civil court judges and an administrative official. No constitutional amendment may be made affecting the rights of the king. Amendments have to be passed by two-thirds majority of the members of each house and be ratified by the king.
An extensive list of personal freedoms ensured by the government under “the rights and duties of Jordanians” is given in Chapter 2, Articles 5 through 23. The government also ensures, within limits, equality of opportunity through employment and education to all Jordanians. Personal freedoms include freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, or language. Freedom from arrest, imprisonment, forced residence and forced labor, exile, expropriation of property without due process of law, freedom of worship, press, opinion, petition, and peaceful assembly are guaranteed within the limits of the law and with the provision that their objectives are lawful.
Even though the 1991 National Charter calls for the establishment of a constitutional court, this has not materialized. The Jordanian Bar Association has been pressing this matter for years but prime ministers have refused, citing more pressing matters and an unripe political climate as justification. The Jordanian Constitution allows amendments to take place on most issues except on issues regarding the rights of the king, the royal family and succession to the throne. The king is also allowed to declare martial law in the Kingdom; thereby suspending the provisions of the constitution. To make amendments to the constitution a two-third majority is required from both the House of Notables and the House of Representatives or a two-third majority of a joint session. An amendment cannot come into force unless it is ratified by the king.
Constitutional Amendments and Procedures
The 1928 Constitution, promulgated under the British Mandate by Emir Abdullah, prepared the general framework upon which today's laws are based. Following independence in 1946, the Legislative Council adopted the second constitution in 1947. In 1950, following the armistice with Israel the year before and in the face of strong Arab opposition, King Abdullah formally merged the West Bank with Trans-Jordan and introduced a revised Constitution of the Kingdom of Jordan. That constitution was liberalized by King Talal and ratified in 1952.
The 1952 Constitution was amended in 1974, 1976, and 1984. In 1974, two amendments enabled the King to dissolve the parliament and postpone House elections for one year. The 1976 amendment enabled him to postpone elections indefinitely, but currently postponement is limited to two years, and only when "compelling circumstances" are deemed to impede the electoral process. Parliament was dissolved on June 16, 2001, and new elections were conducted on June 17, 2003.
Jordan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)