Jordan's King Abdullah Open to Constitutional Monarchy

JENNINGS: Both Jordanian and American officials have told us that you think recently you came very close to capturing [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi. How close?

ABDULLAH: Well, it's -- I think the coalition forces and the international community are working and initial reports recently was that they came fairly close. But I think this is a work in progress, so to speak.

JENNINGS: You are encouraged or not encouraged by the state of emerging democracy in Iraq?

ABDULLAH: I am encouraged because if we see, if we can show success with the Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinian elections, which I thought was very successful, if we can show success in Iraq, it allows the rest of us to be able to move much more freely, and to be able to push the envelope. So any cases of movement in political form throughout the Middle East only I think supports those countries that want to move in that direction.

JENNINGS: And you've said a couple of times now about pushing the envelope in Jordan. What do you mean?

ABDULLAH: Well, two things, that we've done. Obviously we have a national agenda, which is a sort of a 10-year program, bringing in civil society to create a road map on where Jordan should go. I think that is very important. More importantly, from my short-term point of view, with political reform is this idea of complete government decentralization, and created three regions in Jordan, North, Central and South. And allowing those regions to be able to talk about their own futures, and be part of the building block of a new democratic process in Jordan.

JENNINGS: Who would win a free election in Jordan today?

ABDULLAH: Well, unfortunately, this is the problem that we've been dealing with. We have 30 political parties, none of which really have any political platforms, and the problem that I've been facing is that next parliamentary elections, in two years time, I don't want parliament officials being elected because they belong to this tribe or this village or this particular constituency. I want them to be elected on a party political platform. And this is one of the reasons why we moved into this decentralization, this sort of regional program, to try and get grass-root process in creating two or three parties that represent left, right and center.

JENNINGS: Any number of international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, international organizations that favor democracy, say that one of the impediments to political development in Jordan is in fact the crown itself, namely you.

ABDULLAH:Well, by decentralization, by being able to create three or four political parties as opposed to 30, I think that we can strengthen the institutions, so that the crown can take a step back and people can take a step forward.

JENNINGS: But if people want 30 political parties, why shouldn't they have them?

ABDULLAH: Well, you can have 30, you can have 50, but political parties, if we're trying to -- I mean, seriously move the process along, 30 parties or more that do not have political party platforms, where they stand on the economy, where they stand on social services, health, education, I don't think that's the mature way of growing them. We're trying to, and this is the problem, the Crown can't step in and say to political parties, 'Shouldn't you come up with a political party program?' But we're hoping, with democratic maturity, that that happens, and, we haven't -- (Overlap)

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