I use the word “debate” with extreme caution and reservation. It was more like six panelists telling everyone their life story, introducing what little platform they have, and then answering questions that have no relevance to their (potential) future position in Parliament.
Suffice to say it was quite an absurd ritual.
First of all, with all due respect, none of these people have any track record of being politically active. Some were proud of their membership in organizations that ranged from the environmental to the just plain mental. But that’s like saying you can be an actor because you watch a lot of movies.
Second of all, a lot of the rhetoric was just plain bogus. Our IAF candidate would answer almost every question (including his bio and platform introduction) with “the american-zionist conspiracy and/or plot. When asked about alternative energies, nearly everyone said the same thing (a common procedure given the format of the “debate”). First, we must educate our children to conserve, and second we must start producing oil shale. Some went as far as mentioning numbers and studies that I know personally for a fact, either do not exist or are grand estimations from organizations that have never even visited the country. Some even boasted about their environment background yet were adamant in their propagandizing of oil shale not knowing that there are serious environmental concerns to consider, such as ash. I am willing to bet not one candidate knew a single thing about Jordanian oil shale.
Which bring me to the my third and final point; the very basis of this entire post.
The moderators’ questions and the responses of the candidates highlighted an essential problem for me with parliamentary elections.
Every candidate speaks in broad terms. Unemployment, inflation, freeing Palestine, alternative energy, economics, politics. Their rhetoric is not only cliche, but is a macro rather than a micro approach.
In other words, if I as a citizen who lives in the third district of Amman, wishes to vote for a representative of this district, my district, I have my own concerns in my own environment thus my own expectations of certain candidates, than say, a voter in the first district of Amman, or the third district of Kerak or Irbid.
Granted, given the geography and the consequent demographics it encompasses, the third district in Amman is probably the toughest nut to crack.
However, if I am a voter who wants to vote for any of these candidates, I am going to vote for someone who speaks to my concerns. If these were presidential elections or if these were elections that involved candidates speaking within the context of party lines, the majority of which would end up forming the government, then yes, I would look towards candidates that speak of national concerns.
Neither the moderators, candidates or audience have a solid understanding of what these elections are all about. There are 6 people on stage discussing national issues they have no control over or involvement in.
I was relatively bored with the answers and unimpressed with the candidates. Charisma seems to have taken the night off. At one point, some candidates were asked if they would make use of all the parliamentary perks like cars and salaries, and Theodore Al Deir joked that he was only running because he wanted the retirement money. Most did not laugh.
Also, one man who sat behind me kept ridiculing the candidates, at one point making heads turn when he yelled out demanding the candidates answer questions with just a “yes” or “no”. Yes, he was a bit drunk as I could smell the alcohol on his breath, but hey, it wasn’t the worst idea in the world.
So I spent much of the night half listening, catching up on emails and messaging Lina, several rows down from me, my coplaints.