Jordan’s Constitution contains the basic rules that define the shape of the Jordanian state and its system of Government, in addition to the jurisdictions of the powers within that system, their duties and their relation to one another. It also specifies the rights and duties of individuals. The Constitution is the supreme law in Jordan; therefore, no piece of legislation can contravene it, be it laws, regulations, or instructions.
Jordan’s Constitution and its Amendments
The Jordanian Constitution has evolved over several phases to keep up with the political, economic and social changes in the community and the state’s apparatuses.
The first Constitutional Bill was drafted in 1923, while the first Constitution of the country (the Primary Law) was endorsed in 1928. Since then, the Constitution has undergone amendments brought on by various developments, most recent of which was in 2022.
The Legislative Authority
The Legislative Authority is vested in the bicameral Parliament and the King. Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Legislative Authority primarily endorses the draft laws submitted by the Government and monitors the performance of the Executive Authority through the following:
- Representing individuals and groups in the decision-making process.
- Enforcing fiscal monitoring with regard to the state budget and endorsing it.
- Communicating with the Government and guiding it to serve the public’s interest.
- Holding general discussions on political, economic and social issues.
- Informing the public on matters of rule and public policies.
The Senate is the Upper House of Parliament, and its members are national figures appointed by the King.
Article 64 of the Constitution stipulates that a senator must have completed 40 calendar years of age and belong to one of the following categories:
Former Prime Ministers and former Ministers, and those who have formerly occupied leadership positions, Speakers of the House of Representatives, Heads and judges of the Court of Cassation, the High Administrative Court, and the High Sharia Court, the Head and members of the Constitutional Court, and retired officers from the rank of Major General and above, former members of the House of Representatives who were elected at least twice, and other similar personalities who enjoy the confidence of the people in view of the services rendered by them to the Nation and the Country.
The term of office in the Senate is four years and the Constitution allows for reappointing those whose terms have ended. The Senate’s sessions are connected to those of the House of Representatives and held simultaneously with them, and the Senate’s sittings are suspended when the House of Representatives is dissolved.
The House of Representatives
Under Article 67 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives consists of members elected in a general direct election, in accordance with the provisions of the Elections Law, which ensures the right of candidates to supervise the electoral process, the punishment of those who may adversely influence the will of voters and the integrity of the election at all stages.
The House of Representatives elects its Speaker at the beginning of each ordinary session for one year, and the Speaker may be re-elected.
The term of office for members of the House of Representatives is four years, commencing from the date of the announcement of the results of the general elections in the Official Gazette. The King may, by a Royal Decree, prolong the term of the House for no less than one year and no more than two years.
The House of Representatives holds sittings over several sessions, which are classified into three types: ordinary, extraordinary and non-ordinary.
The House can grant or withhold confidence in the Government. Under Article 53 of the Constitution, each newly formed Government submits its ministerial statement to the House within one month of its formation. A Government is granted the House’s confidence if the absolute majority of the members of the House vote in its favour. Further, every Government must submit a ministerial statement to any House elected during its tenure, and request the House’s confidence on that statement.
Under the same article, a sitting to consider a vote of confidence in the Government or in any minister is held either at the request of the Prime Minister, or at a request signed by no less than 25% of the House’s members. A vote of no confidence in the Government or in any minister may be postponed once for no more than 10 days, either upon the request of the concerned minister or of the Cabinet. The House of Representatives cannot be dissolved during this period.
Article 54 stipulates that if the House of Representatives withholds confidence by the absolute majority of the total number of its members, the Government must resign, and its head shall not be assigned to form the subsequent Government. If the vote of no confidence concerns a certain minister, the minister shall step down from his or her position.
The Executive Authority
Article 45 of the Constitution stipulates the jurisdiction of the Cabinet, which includes administering all the internal and external affairs of the state, except for matters that are or may be entrusted by the Constitution or by any other Law to another person or body.
Under Article 46 of the Constitution, any minister may be entrusted with the responsibility of one or more ministries, as may be stated in the Decree of Appointment. Further, Article 47 stipulates that every minister is responsible for the conduct of all matters pertaining to his or her ministry and that he or she refers to the Prime Minister any arising matter that does not fall within his or her mandate. The Prime Minister shall handle all matters within his or her powers, and refers other matters to the Council of Ministers to take the necessary decisions.
Article 48 stipulates that the Prime Minister and ministers sign the decisions taken by the Cabinet, which are then submitted to the King for ratification in the cases required under the Constitution or any laws or regulations. The Prime Minister and ministers enforce these decisions, each within their own mandate.
Article 49 of the Constitution stipulates that verbal or written orders by the King do not absolve ministers of their responsibilities, and Article 50 states that all ministers are deemed to have resigned or been dismissed from office if the Prime Minister is dismissed or resigns. Under Article 51, the Prime Minister and ministers are jointly responsible before the House of Representatives for the public policy of the state, while each minister is accountable before the House for the affairs of his or her ministry.
The Judicial Authority
The Judicial Authority shall be exercised by the courts of law in their varying types and levels, and all judgments shall be issued in accordance with the law and in the name of the King.
Courts in Jordan are open to all, and are free from any interference in their affairs by official or unofficial parties; all individuals and institutions may resort to court, and Judges are independent and are subject to no authority other than that of the law when exercising their judicial functions.
Under Article 99 of the Constitution, courts in the Kingdom are divided into three categories: Ordinary Courts, Religious Courts and Special Courts.
To ensure that justice is served, there are several levels of litigation in Jordan, enabling the individual or institution against whom a court has ruled to plead their case before a higher court.
In the same context, the 2011 constitutional amendments stipulated that the administrative judiciary be at two levels, instead of one made up of the High Court of Justice.
The Judicial Council, under the Independence of the Judiciary Law, lies at the top of the hierarchy of the Judicial Authority in the Kingdom, embodying — alongside Parliament and the Cabinet — the principle of the separation of powers. Under the 2011 constitutional amendments, the Judicial Council is the sole entity with the power to appoint civil judges and refer them to retirement as per the relevant law.
The Council is also concerned with the development of the judicial authority and presenting legislative suggestions related to the judiciary, prosecution and litigation to guide the Government when drafting various laws and regulations.