Author:Shahin, Mariam

Jordan's universally popular monarch, King Hussein, is undergoing treatment for cancer. Concern about King Hussein's health was lurked beneath the surface of Jordanian politics for six years and recent developments, however unpalatable have caused concern about the selection of future rules of the Hashemite kingdom.

Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis and the various sponsors of the Middle East Peace processes have all been tense, hoping against hope that somehow, miraculously, the King would return to his old self and be the athletic powerhouse he was only 10 years ago. Bankers, politicians and a tense nation waited attentively for a televised satellite link-up in which the King addressed the nation from the US in late July. Many feared he would announce that his illness was terminal, or express a wish to step aside and allow his brother, Crown Prince Hassan, to take the helm.

No such dramatic gesture was forthcoming, however. The King announced that he was undergoing chemotherapy to cure him from lymphoma and that he was recovering after the first session of the treatment. His speech did little to change the anxious atmosphere in Jordan however, where worries about succession related issues continue.

There has been a general consensus that Crown Prince Hassan, 51, is not only the anointed successor but one which would be the most welcomed by the enlightened and economically powerful sectors of society.

Once believed to be on questionable terms with Jordan's large and economically powerful Palestinian community, the Crown Prince is now championed by this very group as a leader with integrity, morals and good judgement. The same can be said for the Christian minority (of around five per cent) who form an important section of Jordan's economic and intellectual life.

While Crown Prince Hassan is an Oxford educated scholar with wide ranging interests and knowledge he does not have the "populist touch" that has frequently elevated King Hussein to near prophet-like status with the population. Some analysts fear that this could be problematic, especially with the more traditional elements in Jordan which still favour and promote paternalistic social and political behavioural patterns.

In some ways the Crown Prince is a more modern man, who deals more with issues and facts and less with emotions, than many of his contemporaries.

The Israelis also became jittery at what appeared to be a foreseeable change at the helm in Jordan. In the streets of Tel...

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