A fistfight broke out in the Jordanian parliament Tuesday amid heated arguments about controversial amendments to the country’s constitution.
Some lawmakers objected to what they see as a further increase in the autocratic powers of the monarch under proposed changes to the country’s constitution.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy but its hereditary ruler is vested with comprehensive powers to the point where critics say its democratic institutions provide no meaningful checks on his authority, including his ability to choose the prime minister and dismiss parliament at will.
Amendments proposed to the constitution by a royal commission this year would give MPs the power to choose the prime minister.
But critics say other amendments would further increase the king’s powers.
The proposals have been the cause of some disagreement in Jordan for a while, leading to demonstrations by pro-democracy protesters.
Critics say that in recent years King Abdullah, who has ruled Jordan since 1999 and is a close ally of the West, has become ever more intolerant of dissent as he struggles to grow the country’s economy.
The increased authoritarianism – noted in the downgrade of Jordan from “partly free” to “not free” this year by the U.S. advocacy group Freedom House – stands in contrast to the monarchy’s image of having embraced liberal Western values and being a reliable ally in a turbulent region.