Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013

Ahram Weekly

Jordan returns lacklustre parliament

Elections in Jordan last week saw no major upset, with loyalists, business figures and old faces making up the bulk of the new parliament, writes Khetam Malkawi

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Following two years of calls for reform and citizens’ desire for change amidst the so-called “Arab Spring”, Jordan’s parliamentary elections last week produced a legislature that was described by analysts as the “worst” in the country’s history.

In other Arab Spring countries, regimes fell and new governments and parliaments emerged, with the opposition coming to power. However, in Jordan’s case this hasn’t happened.

The 17th lower house of parliament, the first to be elected after the Arab Spring, is dominated by former deputies who proved their failure in former parliaments, loyalists, businessmen and tribal affiliated figures, in addition to a few leftists and 17 members of the centre Islamist Party, which is not considered opposition.

The new 150-seat parliament also includes two members who were arrested just days before the elections on charges of vote buying.

The elections come as part of the kingdom’s plan for political reform, where parliament for the first time will have a say in naming the prime minister.

The night the election results were announced, several cities of the kingdom were swept by rioters and supporters of candidates who failed to secure seats.

Meanwhile, the process itself came under criticism.

The Independent Elections Commission (IEC) was established as an independent body to supervise the elections. Arab and international monitors commended the measures taken by the IEC to guarantee the integrity of the polls. But the IEC’s announcing the names of winners and changing soon after did not go down well with the public.

On Thursday, 24 January, the day it announced the winners, the IEC announced that the Citizenship List had won a seat in the lower house within the 27 seats designated for a national list. On Saturday, it said there was a mistake in recording the number of votes for the Citizenship List and granted the seat to the leftist Democratic Renaissance List. One day later, the IEC announced the seat would go back to the Citizenship List.

Despite such occurrences, the biggest winner was the state. Of a total of 2.7 million Jordanians eligible to vote, 56.6 per cent showed up 23 January.

The Muslim Brotherhood was the first political party in Jordan to announce boycotting the election. They were betting on its failure.

“Participating in elections within the current situation will deepen the crisis. We said this many times,” Hamza Mansour, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) secretary general told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“In light of the absence of national consensus and the violations we witnessed during the voting process and even the way results were announced that changed more than once, our reaction will be unprecedented in the near future,” Mansour said.

For the opposition leader, a national salvation government is the only solution for the current “crisis” in Jordan.

He threatened that he and the party members would resort to all lawful means available to press their demands.

Meanwhile, some analysts slammed the 2013 Elections Law that only allocated 27 seats of the 150-seat parliament to lists.

When the law was modified last year, 27 seats were allocated for closed national lists through which candidates or political parties can run as part of these lists.

However, results showed that the highest number of winners in each list did not exceed three seats.

Some 61 lists ran for the elections, and only 22 got seats in parliament.

Of the 22, only one list won three seats, three lists won two seats, and the rest won a seat each.

Al-Ghad daily columnist Fahd Khitan said that although the government’s goal was to ensure political parties representation in parliament through these seats, the experience was not a success.

“Neither did the state succeed in bringing the political elite to parliament, nor did the public succeed in seizing the opportunity for change,” he said, adding that the results of these elections will discourage any political or national figure from running for election as list members.

Rheil Gharaibeh, head of the political wing and member of the executive office of the IAF, also called for revising the national list system. He said that lists lacked the spirit of coalitions and served individuals heading them.

One success of the elections, however, is the increased number of women deputies. For the first time in the history of the Jordanian parliament, 17 women secured seats — 15 by quota and two through open competition.

As new parliamentarians are busy lobbying for the post of house speaker, their future remains unclear. Will they see out their four-year term, or will the legislature be dissolved, as was the case with the last two parliaments?

 

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