Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country's long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population. Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 war and defeated Palestinian rebels who attempted to overthrow the monarchy in 1970. King HUSSEIN in 1988 permanently relinquished Jordanian claims to the West Bank. In 1989, he reinstituted parliamentary elections and initiated a gradual political liberalization; political parties were legalized in 1992. In 1994, he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, King HUSSEIN's eldest son, assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and implemented some economic and political reforms. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. In 2003, Jordan staunchly supported the Coalition ouster of SADDAM in Iraq and, following the outbreak of insurgent violence in Iraq, absorbed thousands of displaced Iraqis. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were last held in November 2010 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. Beginning in January 2011 in the wake of unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, as many as several thousand Jordanians staged weekly demonstrations and marches in Amman and other cities throughout Jordan to push for political reforms and protest government corruption, rising prices, rampant poverty, and high unemployment. In response, King ABDALLAH replaced his prime minister and formed two commissions - one to propose specific reforms to Jordan's electoral and political parties laws, and the other to consider limited constitutional amendments. In a televised speech in June, the King announced plans to work toward transferring authority for appointing future prime ministers and cabinet ministers to parliament; in a subsequent announcement, he outlined a revised political parties law intended to encourage greater political participation. Protesters and opposition elements generally acknowledged those measures as steps in the right direction but many continue to push for greater limits on the King's authority and to fight against government corruption. In September, a royal decree approved constitutional amendments passed by the Parliament aimed at strengthening a more independent judiciary and establishing a constitutional court and independent election commission to oversee the next municipal and parliamentary elections, slated for April 2012 and fall 2012, respectively. King ABDALLAH in October 2011 dissolved the Jordanian parliament and replaced the prime minister in response to widespread public dissatisfaction with government performance and escalating criticism of the premier because of public concerns over his reported involvement in corruption.
Sunni Muslim 92% (official), Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shia Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
bicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-'Umma consists of the Senate, also called the House of Notables or Majlis al-Ayan (60 seats; members appointed by the monarch to serve four-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies, also called the House of Representatives or Majlis al-Nuwaab (120 seats; members elected using a single, non-transferable vote system in multi-member districts to serve four-year terms); note - the new electoral law enacted in May 2010 allocated an additional 10 seats (6 seats added to the number reserved for women, bringing the total to 12; 2 additional seats for Amman; and 1 seat each for the cities of Zarqa and Irbid; unchanged are 9 seats reserved for Christian candidates, 9 for Bedouin candidates, and 3 for Jordanians of Chechen or Circassian descent
Chamber of Deputies - last held on 9 November 2010 (next scheduled in 2012); note - the King dissolved the previous Chamber of Deputies in November 2009, midway through the parliamentary term
Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independents and other 120 (includes 12 seats filled by women's quota and 1 woman was directly elected); note - the IAF boycotted the election
Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party [Akram al-HIMSI]; Ba'ath Arab Progressive Party [Fuad DABBOUR]; Call Party [Muhammed ABU BAKR]; Democratic People's Party [Ablah ABU]; Democratic Popular Unity Party [Sa'id DIAB]; Islamic Action Front or IAF [Hamzah MANSOUR]; Islamic Center Party [Marwan al-FA'URI; Jordanian Communist Party [Munir HAMARNAH]; Jordanian National Party [Muna ABU BAKR]; Jordanian United Front [Amjad al-MAJALI]; Life Party [Zahier AMR]; Message Party [Hazem QASHOU]; National Constitution Party [Ahmad al-SHUNAQ]; National Current Party [Abd al-Hadi al-MAJALI]; National Movement for Direct Democracy [Muhammad al-QAQ]
15 April Movement [Mohammad SUNEID, chairman]; 24 March Movement [Mu'az al-KHAWALIDAH, Mu'adh al-KHAWALIDAH, Abdel Rahman HASANEIN, spokespersons]; 1952 Constitution Movement; Anti-Normalization Committee [Hamzah MANSOUR, chairman]; Economic and Social Association of Retired Servicemen and Veterans or ESARSV [Abdulsalam al-HASSANAT, chairman]; Group of 36; Higher Coordination Committee of Opposition Parties [Said DIAB]; Higher National Committee for Military Retirees or HNCMR [Ali al-HABASHNEH, chairman]; Jordan Bar Association [Saleh al-ARMUTI, chairman]; Jordanian Campaign for Change or Jayin; Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood [Dr. Hamam SAID, controller general]; Jordanian Press Association [Sayf al-SHARIF, president]; National Front for Reform or NFR [Ahmad OBEDIAT, chairman]; Professional Associations Council [Abd al-Hadi al-FALAHAT, chariman]; Sons of Jordan
three equal horizontal bands of black (top), representing the Abbassid Caliphate, white, representing the Ummayyad Caliphate, and green, representing the Fatimid Caliphate; a red isosceles triangle on the hoist side, representing the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, and bearing a small white seven-pointed star symbolizing the seven verses of the opening Sura (Al-Fatiha) of the Holy Koran; the seven points on the star represent faith in One God, humanity, national spirit, humility, social justice, virtue, and aspirations; design is based on the Arab Revolt flag of World War I
Jordan's economy is among the smallest in the Middle East, with insufficient supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources, underlying the government's heavy reliance on foreign assistance. Other economic challenges for the government include chronic high rates of poverty, unemployment, inflation, and a large budget deficit. Since assuming the throne in 1999, King ABDALLAH has implemented significant economic reforms, such as opening the trade regime, privatizing state-owned companies, and eliminating most fuel subsidies, which in the past few years have spurred economic growth by attracting foreign investment and creating some jobs. The global economic slowdown, however, has depressed Jordan's GDP growth. Export-oriented sectors such as manufacturing, mining, and the transport of re-exports have been hit the hardest. The Government approved two supplementary budgets in 2010, but sweeping tax cuts planned for 2010 did not materialize because of Amman's need for additional revenue to cover excess spending. The budget deficit is likely to remain high, at 5-6% of GDP, and Amman likely will continue to depend heavily on foreign assistance to finance the deficit in 2011. Jordan's financial sector has been relatively isolated from the international financial crisis because of its limited exposure to overseas capital markets. Jordan is currently exploring nuclear power generation to forestall energy shortfalls.
general assessment: service has improved recently with increased use of digital switching equipment; microwave radio relay transmission and coaxial and fiber-optic cable are employed on trunk lines; growing mobile-cellular usage in both urban and rural areas is reducing use of fixed-line services; Internet penetration remains modest and slow-growing
1995 telecommunications law opened all non-fixed-line services to private competition; in 2005, monopoly over fixed-line services terminated and the entire telecommunications sector was opened to competition; currently multiple mobile-cellular providers with subscribership rapidly approaching 100 per 100 persons
country code - 962; landing point for the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) FEA and FLAG Falcon submarine cable networks; satellite earth stations - 33 (3 Intelsat, 1 Arabsat, and 29 land and maritime Inmarsat terminals); fiber-optic cable to Saudi Arabia and microwave radio relay link with Egypt and Syria; participant in Medarabtel (2010)
radio and TV dominated by the government-owned Jordan Radio and Television Corporation (JRTV) that operates a main network, a sports network, a film network, and a satellite channel; first independent TV broadcaster aired in 2007; international satellite TV and Israeli and Syrian TV broadcasts are available; roughly 30 radio stations operational with JRTV operating the main government-owned station; transmissions of multiple international radio broadcasters are available (2007)
Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF): Royal Jordanian Land Force (RJLF), Royal Jordanian Navy, Royal Jordanian Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Malakiya al-Urduniya, RJAF), Special Operations Command (Socom); Public Security Directorate (normally falls under Ministry of Interior, but comes under JAF in wartime or crisis) (2011)
17 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription for males at age 18 was suspended in 1999, but reinstated in July 2007 in order to provide youth training necessary for job market needs; all males under age 37 are required to register; women not subject to conscription, but can volunteer to serve in non-combat military positions in the Royal Jordanian Arab Army Women's Corps (2010)