Political reform needs cultural change


The road to the formation of strong and last political parties is usually not an easy one, especially in a country like Jordan that has suffered for so long from a lack of political activism and the presence of strong non-Jordanian parties. While the current attempts to shape parties might create the impression of political activism, calling for people to join parties that are being created is not a panacea to boost political engagement and affect the changes needed in Jordan.

What is also needed is to build positive perceptions that changes are taking place, and this requires an action plan that goes beyond the election and party laws. It is much more important to focus on a wider process of cultural change. We need a shift in the culture of politics and to build awareness amongst people to foster feelings of belonging to the society itself and empower them in their role to participate in the development process. 

The more people participate in building their future the happier they are, so building parties and focussing on the number of people joining parties is not the best approach to positive change. Instead, liberties, political activism and freedom of speech are the pillars of a cultural change that will lead to more positive engagement in social life and de facto political life. So, what the state can do today is focus on creating this positive atmosphere, regardless of the engagement levels in the current political parties. 

The natural evolution of political thought is a result of cultural development so people should be given the chance to have their own experience in political activism, to be given the time to develop the ideas that are fundamental to building a political party. Perhaps it is the time to recognise that to achieve real and concrete outcomes for the future, cultural revolution is much more important than bureaucratic political reform.

The road to increased political participation, inclusion, pluralism, and vital engagement of citizens passes through the gate of cultural revolution. It is the time to look at things with a long-term view and recognise that only a cultural change can lead to social change. So, while political engagement is necessary, it will not happen with rhetoric or superficial and cosmetic measure. It can only happen through societal change, from the bottom up, and this needs to take into consideration that cultural change can be the key to comprehensive concrete change.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh