The Jordanian parliament is getting to be a wild and woolly place these days. As I noted on Passport a little more than a year ago, Jordanian lawmaker Mohammed Shawabka earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first lawmaker in recent memory to take up arms during a debate, pointing a pistol at activist-turned-politician Mansour Seif-Eddine Murad on a popular television show on July 5, 2012. Now comes the news that Shawabka’s colleague, MP Talal Al Sharif, chased a third lawmaker, Qusai al-Dmeisi, through the halls of parliament on Tuesday, squeezing off at least three rounds from an automatic rifle.
No one was injured in the incident, which appears to have been precipitated by a personal dispute between the two lawmakers (the Washington Post remarks, not altogether generously, that both men "were prominent members of the traditional Bedouin tribes with no particular ideological agenda.")
Sharif has since been charged with attempted murder, among other infractions, but has not yet been expelled from parliament because of a legal technicality. The rules of the current parliamentary session apparently prevent discussion or a vote on expulsion.
Shoe-throwing and even brawling are not uncommon in Jordan’s lower house of parliament (see, here, MP Shawabka involved in an unrelated kerfuffle), but the use of an automatic weapon breaks new ground in the modern era.
Of course, history is replete with incidents of violence in politics, from the caning of Sen. Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in 1856 to the 1890 killing of Rep. William Taulbee by a reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal on the Capitol staircase. Indeed, when, in 1804, Aaron Burr, the sitting U.S. vice president, killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel, few thought it out of the ordinary. Burr had, after all, already survived a similar dispute with Hamilton’s brother-in-law and dueling, as one New York publication noted in 1802, was "much in fashion."
Unlike Burr, however, it seems unlikely that Sharif will complete his elected term. Jordan’s King Abdullah II was reportedly enraged by the incident and ordered the parliamentary speaker, Saad Hayel Srour, to hand Sharif over to the police. If convicted of attempted murder, he could face up to 15 years in prison.