Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution of 8 January 1952. The king has wide powers over all branches of government. The constitution vests legislative power in the bicameral national assembly, composed of a 40-member senate and a 104-member lower house, and a chamber of deputies (a law enacted in July 2001 increased the size of the lower house from 80 seats to 104). Senators are appointed by the king for renewable eight-year terms; the chamber of deputies is elected by secret ballot for a four-year term, but the king may dissolve the chamber and order new elections. There is universal suffrage at age 18, women having received the right to vote in April 1973; general elections were held in 1989, 1993, and 1997. In February 1999, King Abdallah II succeeded to the throne following the death of his father, King Hussein.
The national assembly is convened and may be prorogued by the king, who also has veto power over legislation. The executive power of the king is administered by a cabinet, or council of ministers. The king appoints the prime minister, who then selects the other ministers, subject to royal approval. The ministers need not be members of the chamber of deputies. In the prolonged emergency created by the wars with Israel and by internal disorders, especially since 1968, King Hussein exercised nearly absolute power. The national assembly, adjourned by the king in 1974, met briefly in 1976 to amend the constitution; parliamentary elections were postponed indefinitely because of the West Bank situation, and the Assembly was then dissolved. In 1978, King Hussein established a national consultative council of 60 appointed members. The national assembly was reconvened in 1984, as King Hussein sought to strengthen his hand in future maneuvering on the Palestinian problem. Political parties were legalized in 1992. The freely elected parliaments of 1989 and 1993 have played an increasingly active and independent role in governance, with open debate and criticism of government personalities and policies. However, new press restrictions were imposed by 1997, and a majority of opposition groups boycotted the elections that year. King Abdallah dissolved parliament in June 2001 and postponed elections until summer 2002; they were once again postponed and scheduled for spring 2003.