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Jordan's Democracy Requires Time to Grow

The picture portrayed by the article "Jordan Doubts Its King," (Oct. 30) regarding Jordan's upcoming parliamentary elections, is not accurate.

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As the article suggests, our system of political pluralism may not be perfect. But democratization in Jordan, as in other countries, is a process that can't occur overnight.

That process is often a challenging one, with ups and downs. Some members of the opposition, including the Islamic Action Front, voluntarily chose to boycott the elections this year. Other Islamists did not adopt the party position and will run for parliament as independent candidates. What is interesting is that the boycott did not have much influence on the public - close to 80 percent of Jordanian voters registered for the upcoming elections.

Furthermore, the fact that many Jordanians vote along tribal lines is no fault of the government. As unappealing as it may be to some inside and outside Jordan, tribes are a legitimate part of our society. As the political experience in Jordan matures - largely a question of time - we may get to a stage in which identification with political parties supersedes tribal affiliations.

As for the statement that parliament is "often seen as little more than a rubber stamp," perhaps the author was not present in Jordan to witness elected members of parliament debating the treaty of peace with Israel. And although the prime minister is appointed by the king, the cabinet and its program of action have to enjoy sufficient support from parliament members to secure a vote of confidence from that elected body.

On the economic front, although the challenges Jordan has faced over the past few years have been considerable, they are by no means insurmountable. Jordan's attempt to improve the economic situation in the country includes: (a) the implementation of a structural readjustment program with the cooperation of international financial institutions, and (b) liberalization of the economic laws, coupled with a strong emphasis on privatization - all in an attempt to achieve the goal of an investment-driven economy with a larger measure of self-sufficiency. It would logically follow, in this context, that Jordan's decision to join the Middle East peace process also was part of the attempt to bring in a new economic dynamism that would benefit people in Jordan.

With regard to the recently adopted press and publications law, it is important to point out that a clear consensus existed among Jordanians that the proliferation of tabloids that produced "yellow journalism" was indeed a problem for Jordanian society, particularly the morally inappropriate material that was being printed. Since 1989, when press restrictions were lifted, the mainstream media has failed to rise to the occasion and improve the caliber of reporting, thus opening the way for tabloids to fill the gap with sensationalism. While people in Jordan may differ over what the most effective manner of dealing with that problem may have been, the Jordanian populace - which is largely conservative on social issues - recognized that the tabloids did pose a problem that needed to be addressed.

Dr. Marwan Muasher

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Embassy of the H.K. of Jordan

Human fallibility affects lie detectors

Regarding "Do Lie Detectors Lie? Court Weighs Truth," (Nov. 3): The so-called lie detector is a machine interfaced to a human undergoing lie detector test procedures, administered by another human.

The machine can only respond to its intended purpose: measuring human emotional responses as electrical and mechanical events displayed on a multichannel chart recorder. These events must be interpreted by the human operator, who is the real lie or truth detector, not the machine.

The problem here is integrity. Even if the machine is operating properly, its inputs can be modified by the subject under evaluation. Also, the human operator of the detector can be fallible and biased.

A lie is a volitional act. We humans are volitional, machines are not. Machines can malfunction and are prone to error, but they cannot lie.

Albert Basko

Des Plaines, Ill.

Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

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