Mulqi’s Disinterest and the Public Perception

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Sun 30 April / Apr 2017. 11:00 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

My colleague, Fahed Khitan, yesterday, addressed the incident in which the Prime Minister, Hani Mulqi, replied to a person’s complaint to him, on the economic hardship of Jordanians have to endure.

Dr Mulqi’s response has been circulating the spheres of social media quite intensely. Parts of it, and for obvious reasons, were more intriguing to the public, and thus more popular.

Instances of the sort have happened before, mind you, with former prime ministers, Khitan recalled to us, including premiers Abdullah Nsoor and Marouf Bakhit.

In a way or another, Mulqi’s recent incident may be considered a subtle engagement or confrontation.

Alternatively, Khitan suggested, and I strongly agree, Premier Mulqi should have engaged the citizen, whose only rightly objecting skyrocketing prices and bad economic conditions.

Mulqi could have asked the man his opinion, and perhaps asked him for alternatives and other options.

Had he done this, he could have convinced the masses present, and subsequently, those circulating the video in the aftermath, of the government’s defence.

But does the government even care about what people think?!

Generally speaking, the government does not seem to care much what people about their policies.

This is not an isolated incidental response by the prime minister to the citizen’s complaint. This is actually quite articulate of the government’s general approach to public opinion and the citizenry.

The government cares little about the consistency and strength of their public address, policies, and positions.

In other words, the Cabinet is careless about the public’s responses, or the public perception of the government, both personally and officially!

Unfortunately, the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ has reinforced a rather dangerous misconception among politicians, entailing an implicit criticism of governments seeking popularity. Those are often perceived as weak and hesitant.

Contrarily, many politicians seem to be more reverent of statesmen who make long due, bold, and “brave” decisions, like floating fuel prices and raising taxes, regardless of what the people think.

Seeking popularity, which to the typical pro-apathetic politician may seem apologetic, is also seen as the main reason why these hard yet necessary decisions have been avoided all these years.

Apparently, many of those view the popular resentment of standing policy as natural, and perhaps more or less definitive of good government. As if the negative relationship with the populace is the only way there is.

There is a deliberate, or so it seems, disregard of the public opinion, and a general official disinterest in establishing continuous communication with the citizenry.

In my estimation, this is an extremely dangerous situation, on the long run. The culmination of problems, as well, on top of this disinterest, only widens the gap between government and public.

Typically, this is clear in the most recent opinion surveys, which sound quite the opposite of public satisfaction.

Mindfully, governments need to distinguish between populism and popularity. The latter is a solid and concrete basis for socio-political stability. Whereas the prior suggests an exploitative, and deceptive attempt to appeal to the public sentiment, albeit against the general welfare.

Popularity is a result of genuine interest in citizens and their affairs. It is rooted in the belief that the public is in fact the main enabler of public policy and decision making.

Likewise, credibility, a crucially integral element to the effectiveness of government, also depends on the public’s conviction in their leaders’ abilities to navigate difficulties and see to their overall good and benefit.

In turn, this is highly relevant to the government’s ability to address the populace, convincingly, and engage the public with compelling and appealing arguments.

Somehow, popularity gives governments the ability, like doctors, to convince people of very difficult choices, trusting they are to the public’s greater good!

So long as we are talking about the 4x4 term basis for government, it is vital that the Cabinet formulates a consistent, clear, and engaging political media message.

More so, it would be unwise to disregard or underestimate the effects of such a brief encounter, given the long shadow it casts on the public perception of the government!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.