After several months of debates The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a new Election Law, a revived Independent Election Commission, and the vote was already set for Wednesday, 23rd January 2013. With great importance is that next Prime Minister will be elected by the citizens, so the independent politician Abdullah Ensour is probable the last prime minister of Jordan named on the prerogative of His Majesty King Abdullah II.
The laws in Jordan are based on Islamic law and French codes and the government consists of Chief of State (HM King Abdullah II), the executive Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, and the National Assembly with two chambers, the House of Deputies and the Senate.
After the future elections, the House of Deputies will consist in a total of 150 seats, 123 sets elected directly by the voters and 27 seats allocated under a newly designed proportionally electoral system, to satisfy the opposition. In other words, the electorate will have two votes, at district level they have to choose under the “single non-transferable vote” (SNTV), at national level they vote for parties, rather than tribes. There are 12 seats for the Christians and Circassian minority, and the women`s quota was increased to 15, with another three seats reserved for women from Bedouin areas. The new Election Law allows people in the military system to vote, which increase the total electorate with almost 10 %.
Even the SNTV system is used by many countries, the opposition in Jordan considers it is defective, especially for the large parties with dispersed support like Islamic Action Front, which decided to boycott again the elections. IAF asked the return to the block vote system of 1989, in which each voter has multiple votes in multi-member districts, but can only vote for each candidate just one time.
To one hand, the mathematical disadvantage of the SNTV system means that is very hard to count the optimal number of candidates to run as to win the seats for. On the other hand, the block multi-vote system is an advantage for the parties with few supporters, without representing the wish of the majority.
Just before Eid Al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim Holiday, HM King Abdullah II gave a speech in front of prominent politicians, businessmen and opposition members. His Majesty called on Jordan`s opposition to get involved in the next elections, to be more active in the future reforms instead of election boycott and street protests.
“It is citizens’ vote in this election that will determine the make-up of the next Parliament and the next parliamentary government, thus determining the policies and decisions that will affect the life of every citizen. Therefore, citizens must not allow anyone to deprive them of their right to vote and affect change.” HM King Abdullah II said.
In the last two years, inspired by the wave of Arab uprisings, the Islamists organized street protests calling for reforms and limiting of King Abdullah`s powers. Even if almost every Friday there is a protest, just few people are against the King, because he acts as a guarantor of stability in the region, and as a balance between the native Jordanians and the Palestinian origin Jordanians.
His Majesty said it is natural that every modernization and change initiative to be accompanied by anxiety and uncertainty, and the popular demands focused on enhancing citizen`s rights to participate in the decisions that impact them and their future. The constitutional reforms were designed to make the people partner in decision-making, and the next election will be organized by the Independent Election Commission with maximum of integrity and transparency.
The most important suggestion of His Majesty during the speech was for the political parties in organizing their electoral platforms. They must explain citizens the policies and strategies to address the challenges of poverty and unemployment, of debt and budget deficit, how they will develop the voting system, how will be solved the water and energy challenges, how can the quality of health, education and transport services be improved.
“We believe in the opposition’s right to be an active and genuine partner in the political process, steering away from opportunism and empty slogans, and from manipulating economic hardships and people’s sentiments. But no group is allowed to claim that they hold a monopoly over the truth and that they represent all Jordanians.” HM Abdullah II said.
Being accused by the opposition for several times that has the monopoly over the components of the state, for the protesters that want to “overthrow the regime”, His Majesty redefined who personify the regime. First, the regime is represented by the state and all its institutions and agencies. Second, the regime is the values, the organizations and citizens of Jordan, so every individual of the society is part of the regime.
“I call on you all to take part in the upcoming elections, so that we can achieve the desired change and reform, and to stand united in the face of those who try to undermine the achievements of the Jordanian state or threaten its unity…”, that`s how the king round off his speech.
Considering the internal situation in Jordan and the future elections, it is very important to understand how the regional or bilateral agreements might suffer changes. For instance, the scenario with a government fundamentalist majority is likely to pressure on the Peace Treaty with Israel, to push indirect the secular Jordanians to emigrate, or to become a thorn for the small but active community of Christians. There is also much probability for a happy scenario if the candidates will persuade with a strong electoral platform and citizens will make rational choices rather than emotional.
For the Middle East countries, facing the gap between tradition and modernity, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a moderate model achieving both.
Al-Khalidi, Suleiman, Jordan`s king urges Islamists to end poll boycott, Reuters, 24 October 2012;
Arab Spring different in each country – King Abdullah, Media & Communication Directorate Royal Hashemite Court, New York, 26 September 2012;
Farrell, David M, Electoral Systems: A comparative Introduction. St. Martin`s Press, New York, 2011;
King entrusts Abdullah Ensour to head new government, Media & Communication Directorate Royal Hashemite Court, Amman, 10 October 2012;
Small, Alex, Geometric construction of voting methods that protects voters’ first choices, August 2010.
Speech of King Abdullah II during a gathering with National Public Figures, translated from Arabic, Amman, 23 October 2012, available on www.kingabdullah.jo.;
Jordan protests after king calls early elections, 5 October 2012, available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east.