Jordan’s answer to Muammar Gaddafi? Mad dog Shibli speaks to us from his Madaba tent
Shibli Haddad in all his glory.
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For a politician, Shibli Haddad would make an excellent celebrity. The Jordanian candidate for the city of Madaba has become an overnight star with his shocking black wig and permanent sunglasses. Shibli has a Facebook page with over 35,000 ‘likes’ and is more than a little fond of reeling off the list of international news agencies that want to interview him.
It is his social media presence that has allowed him to break out of Madaba and catch the attention of the world but, as it turns out, he doesn’t even run the page that made him so famous.
As we sit in his rowdy election tent on a disused car park, he tells us:
“I assigned the task of Facebook to a tribal friend of mine. I take in the positive feedback I get and just ignore the negative stuff.”
The Jordanian hopeful is campaigning on a platform of “youth empowerment” as demonstrated by the group of young men waiting around for him, chanting, “Shibli is the one” and letting off fireworks.
“The youth of Madaba are always great”, he tells us, adding, “You can’t be serious all the time. If I see someone with a fake smile I tell them - ‘smile properly!’”
However, Shibli is not so keen on the youth when they are hogging his limelight. As the microphones gather round this politician-turned-star and his lively young supporters chant over the recording, he decides enough is enough and abruptly throws the whole lot of them out of his tent.
Not content with a campaign tent and TV interviews, Mr. Haddad has created a theme song for his supporters. The footage, uploaded on YouTube, taps in to the patriotic feelings in the Kingdom and includes almost five minutes of close-up shots of this unusual election candidate.
From his Facebook page, Shibli has been able to air some of his more outrageous opinions on Jordan, the Middle East and the world. He has famously spoken about the elusive oil, apparently buried deep beneath the Kingdom:
“If I get in [to Parliament] I would form a department to try to pursue getting the oil out”, he says, adding “At the moment there are certain Gulf countries that are conspiring to keep the business to themselves”
However, the candidate’s conspiracy theories don’t end there. We asked him how he would tackle corruption in Jordan, an issue often raised by the electorate.
“My solution is to hit anyone guilty of corruption with an iron fist and target the global networks”, he tells us.
Although he declined to elaborate on which networks exactly he was referring to, he did reiterate that everything he says is the truth. With the elections in Jordan looming, many believe that this larger-than-life character has done enough to capture the imagination of the public to ensure he enters Parliament.
Shibli is certainly careful to toe the government line but he hasn’t yet lost his sense of humor about the whole process. When asked if he wanted change at the very top of the chain of command, a taboo subject for anyone in the Kingdom, he says:
“The King is despairing about the Parliament members. Let them put me in jail, I'll be eating, sleeping and drinking there."
By Helen Brooks and Salem Husseini
Is Shibli Haddad just a one-off in the elections or should there be more candidates willing to get in front of the cameras and air their views? Tell us what you think below.