Could Egypt's protests spread to Jordan?
Protests have broken out across the Arab world, after the protests in Egypt toppled the Mubarak regime. Could Jordan be next?
This story was originally covered by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.
By Matthew Bell
At a fruit and vegetable market in downtown Amman, Jordan, just about everyone I talked with said he or she has been glued to Arabic news channels like Al Jazeera, closely following events in Egypt.
A middle-aged day-laborer gave his name as Bakr and said change was important for Egypt. "No one man should rule a country for 30 years," he said. "But every country is different."
Bakr went on to say that yes, "there have been demonstrations for political change in Jordan too. But they're not demonstrations against the king. We love our king."
That is something I have heard again and again from Jordanians.
Wearing a black headscarf with a veil and carrying grocery bags, Lamis al-Masri said that Jordanians are very proud of what Egyptians have done.
"Everyone deserves the basics in life, like a good job and enough food. But our king," she said, "may God lengthen his life, he provides us with everything."
King Abdullah and the United States
Like Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan is a close ally of the United States.
Officials from the Pentagon and State Department just met with Abdullah over the weekend. The State Department said it supports the king's plans for political and economic change.
As the events in Egypt played out earlier this month, Abdullah sacked his prime minister and ordered quick reforms. That's reassuring to Jordanians who have complaints about their government.
I spoke with Mishrif Ashuqir il-Adwan, a retired army officer, at the market. And he too praised King Abdullah.
Then, Adwan said he's not sure the king is getting the best advice from those around him, or if he's getting a true picture of the situation in Jordan.
That picture isn't pretty, said an unemployed construction worker, who introduced himself to me as Marwan.
"The government isn't helping the people," he said. "Jordanians are not lazy, we want to work. Poverty is high and we need help finding jobs."
Marwan added that he sincerely hopes things don't get so bad that a revolution -- like the one in Egypt -- erupts in Jordan.
The Bedouin tribes of Jordan are about 40 percent of the population. And they are strong supporters of King Abdullah's government. That's why a recent petition signed by tribal leaders criticizing the government made news here and abroad.
Complaints about corruption, economic insecurity and the pace of democratic reforms have come from Jordan's Palestinian population as well. That group makes up a majority of the country. And there's a deep division between Palestinians and the so-called "East Bankers" or native Jordanians.
Oraib Rantawi of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman said this divide would make it difficult to build the kind of consensus that helped Egyptians topple President Hosni Mubarak.
The divide also puts King Abdullah in a tough spot, when it comes to trying to please both sides.
Still, Rantawi told me that the winds of democratic change are blowing through the Arab world and that Jordan's government had better be prepared.
"With this new atmosphere, you cannot rule depending on the same tools," Rantawi said. "Business as usual is not good enough now. You have to change."
The rules after Tunisia and Egypt are simple, Rantawi said. Arab leaders will either change their ways and take heed of public opinion, or these rulers, including those in Jordan, will be changed by the people.
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