Belated Reflections On The Parliamentary Elections

Since my blog went down for 11 days right after the elections, I never really got to voice my opinion on the topic. In fact, so much happened that without my ordinary outlet for ranting, I was left to bother family, friends and co-workers instead (my apologies to them all). But better late than never, and in any case, with the elections being long gone now, I have the benefit of looking at the events in a retrospective manner.

First of all, my general feelings about the way the elections were carried out were pretty much articulated in my opinion piece for Jordan Business this month entitled How To Rig An Election (word doc), so I won’t repeat myself there. It’s a view I’ve held for awhile now, and have written about it on the Black Iris before. What I didn’t get to talk about were the results of two important political entities: women and the Islamic Action Front. Warning: the rest of this post is quite lengthy.

As most know by now, voter turnout for women candidates was pretty disastrous. Amman’s third district candidate, Samar Haj Hassan, garnered the most votes (correct me if I’m wrong) in her district (over 2,000), and even that wasn’t enough to win her a seat under the dome. In the entire country, only one woman, Falak Jamaani of Madaba, managed to win on her own merit (and congrats to her), while the rest were selected through the quota system. It’s kind of like picking the winners from the losers.

In reality, as I’ve argued a thousand times before, the women’s quota will erode away any perceptions people have when it comes to voting for women. Heck, if women alone voted for female candidates that would be enough to get them a seat. But they didn’t. What has changed in the past 4 years since the last elections was that many of those running made it abundantly clear that they were doing so under the women’s quota. I read many banners that had the words “women’s quota” scrawled on them, matching those of candidates who ran for “Christian seats”.

This reflects a bit of confusion as to the purpose of the quota. The quota is a temporary system initially designed to encourage women to run and to encourage people to vote for them. It has so far succeeded in the former and failed in the latter. Moreover, its success in the former has only meant the encouraging of women who just want the gig for the money and position, who now feel they have a better chance of getting that. This conclusion is based purely on observation and the fact that while many women I saw running actually had political ambitions, many of them (if not most) didn’t even campaign. They had posters and banners printed up, but they were no where to be seen. This is also true of many male candidates as well, both probably feeling they would depend on family and friends.

But to go back, the system is an initiative that is completely different from allocated seats for minority groups such as Christians and Sharkas (Circassians) that are in place to ensure permanent representation. This is also true of upper military positions for both groups. Also, when it comes to these two groups, most Jordanians who are of those two groups will often feel compelled to vote for them. In other words, if I am a Christian, I will usually feel compelled to vote for a Christian candidate because there is something that ties me to him or her (in this case religion). This is only natural. To say nothing of the fact that in Jordan, minorities tend to populate certain areas, so the likelihood of someone voting for a candidate with the same religion or ethnic background (or even name) is obviously high. The same cannot be said of women, whose constituency is much broader, and most women do not feel compelled to vote for a fellow woman. In fact, I believe most women voted for men in this election if I recall one article correctly.

The point is, if there is a woman who wants to run for parliament, she should at the very least pretend that there is no quota system. Printing banners stating clearly that she’s running for the quota seat only reinforces the idea that there is no need to vote for someone who doesn’t necessarily need your vote to win. Moreover, I’m actually against anyone running under the guise of an allocated seat, be they Christian, Sharkasi, or a woman. In lieu of political parties, people should run as political national candidates and win as such. They should speak to the broader constituency to bring everyone into the fold, without limiting their pandering to a specific religion, ethnicity or gender.

Secondly…

The Islamists. After months of the government’s constant political attacks and demonizing of the party, and the party’s terrible campaigning and media foul ups, the IAF won very few seats in the elections. Was their foul play involved? Of course. An Islamic party, which happens to be the largest party and only valid opposition party; a party that has historically been popular and I would argue has grown more popular in recent years in the regional political context of Hamas and Hizballah; this party ends up with less than half the seats it occupied only 4 years ago? Something is amiss here. IAF rallies throughout November brought together so many supporters it was surprising they didn’t get every seat for the 22 candidates they put in the field.

What makes this conclusion all the more valid is that right after votes were “counted”, articles and headlines all made sure to mention the erosion of Islamist power in Jordan; a message that was surely intended to be received by both the Jordanian masses and our western friends.

So as if the Lower House wasn’t irrelevant enough, it has now been further weakened by the now barely audible voice of the country’s only opposition. And I say this while being no fan of the IAF.

To conclude…

Corruption and fraud aside, I think the biggest problem (of the many) remains the fact that voters are still tribe-oriented, which remains largely due to the lagging development of political parties. I think another large problem remains the fact that the one-man one-vote system and gerrymandering of seats is designed to make geography and demographics important where they shouldn’t be. Without solving these two major problems first, then voter fraud is insignificant for me. In other words, what’s the point of talking about corruption of an electoral system that is unjust to begin with?

16 thoughts on “Belated Reflections On The Parliamentary Elections

  1. Hey Mate
    simply I would have to accept parts of what you said in regards to elections and

    democratic processes itself.
    Even in most respectful democracies ‘shit happens’ and everyone knows that, it is the

    scale that varies from one to another systems…
    Now, what I really need to disagree with you is the voting system, which can have been

    designed to give some Governates more seats than its population, and i find nothing

    wrong about that. Positive Discrimation is a well established term, those remote

    cities should have some advantages as Amman and its citizens (regarding the origin,

    and loyalities balance) are fully privileged with opportunies, whether political,

    economical, and at education level. those you call minorities in Jordanian cities have

    paid the price of being in the front line with the war and region instability when

    many of Amman’ today citizens were in Kuwait or Gulf cities to make fortunes and came

    back to claim citizenship now…
    Amman comsumed biggest share of national resources, a nd it is just fair to give the

    other some space.
    You cant really simply deny their quality
    Majali – Kerak
    Rawabdeh- Irbid
    Doghmi- Mafraq
    Kharabsheh- Balqa
    and many others came from these cities, well educated, and very strong political

    players.
    I guess you follow the line that want to claim more rights to Jordanian of Palestinain

    origin, and I cant try to stop you of expressing own thoughts. but I guess many people

    tend to forget the Right of Return, which the state of Jordan was underfire many times

    because people like you with all respect for their intellect keep pushing for more

    rights, and I don’t really mind it if loyality is granted to Jordan, and only Jordan.
    I guess this is all the elections debate’ about!
    Now, many tribes in Jordan loose more than political parties as matter of fact as they can really if join forces go over any other force, so dear watch what you wish for!

  2. JPW, don’t you get tired of polluting the blogs with the official talking points. all this crap about rich jordanains from the gulf and loyalty and other bullshit that you keep repeating like a broken record. your understanding of the concept of citizenship is so retarded I don’t know where to start.

    you keep forgetting that to a large extent, Jordanian economy is funded by Jordanian expats’ remittance. not by most people who live in jordan and make the average of 200 USD per month. So show some appreciation for Jordanians who paid for your school and your tax exemptions and vacations while you sat bumming around on the local cafes,. those Jordanians whose loyalty you are questioning were in foreign lands, easing the pressure off the Jordanian economy which would not have been able to employ them or house them or educate them. so have some decency when you speak of Jordanian expats. of course people forget that in Kuwait, the majority of Jordanians were not middle class, but blue collar workers who did not fair well in Kuwait.

    And please, stop speaking about loyalty to jordan and only Jordan, because form what I am seeing, those who speak of loyalty to Jordan are more loyal to US and Israel and have driven Jordan’s economy into the grounds with their corruption. Talk is cheap and so is a 2 JD flag. So spare us your loyalty crap. Loyalty is a civilized country is driven by respect of law. not by your cheap slogans and conduct that divides Jordanian society.

  3. calling foul on the lack of IAF misrepresentation is slightly uncalled for, they put the noose on their own necks when they put forth candidates that don’t speak for their base and hence it was natural that those candidates didn’t make because the base boycotted the election…

  4. JPW, your inherited mentality is so blatant that you give examples of tribes and refer to them as individuals discarding all the circumstances of what made them who they are really… as for the right of return, lets face reality now although it might be a slight discomfort for you but bear with me. that right is a major concern for the refugees rather than the nationalized citizenry so dragging that issue which has nothing to do with the political scene in jordan is digressing from the heart of the issue.

    proportionate representation is only logical, and anything other than that has a single purpose and only helps to divide, i won’t waste many more clicks on this since people like you are an ever diminishing minority in Jordan

  5. Public watch, representation in the parliament has nothing to do with right of return. it has something to do with fairness. no one is asking to elect the President of Jordan or to chart foreign policy and national security. this is about basic representation to influence domestic policy such as education, health care, social security, urban planning, rent control, and other critical issues that have recently caused Jordaniains great distress, from inflation to failed mega projects, to decline of the educational and health care systems, … these disasters could have been mitigated if democracy was working in jordan and people felt they have the power to change anything, God forbid.

    … the main reason behind the reluctance to democratize Jordan is not driven by any of the concerns you have mentioned, but driven strictly by old fashioned resistance to fairness we find in most Arab societies. it’s not much different than the mentality of a child bully who wants to collect all the toys for himself. this is a problem in all Arab countries, even though the justifications for the repression differ.

    let’s face it, we are not fairness-oriented people. we were encouraged from an early age to be bullies and to take things by force and to not share except with siblings and relatives. that’s why there are civilized countries, countries that are are prone to be civilized, and retarded arab countries. even some African, Asisian, and Latin Americans countries who are far less developed than we are, from an educational and economic points of view, have far more advanced political systems and working democracies. of course the US factor is always present, encouraging repression as a reward for loyalty. the middle east today is where latin and south american used to be during the cold war.

  6. JPW:
    “Majali – Kerak
    Rawabdeh- Irbid
    Doghmi- Mafraq”

    Are you serious?Do you consider those individuals well educated and “elite”?
    As for the so called loyalty, you are in no position to question anyone’s intentions..Give people equal rights, they will give you loyalty. And as you said in democracy shit happens, so you have to accept what the majority wants, or else migrate!

    As for the right of return, you can talk to abdelsalam el majali who is calling for confedration..

    On a side note, I tend to stand on bam’s side, the rigging was unbelievable;GID personnel participated with Pre-filled ballots. Also there was a boycott and votes sold..

  7. never assume PublicWatch is a Jordanian user. on my blog, many divisive comments cannot be traced to a Jordanian ISP. the IP addresses of most hostile Jordanian posts were linked to US or European ISPs and most were associated with proxies servers. so before you ratchet up the divisive comments, consider this peace of info.

  8. PW, where did you learn that equality for one group can only be accomplished by mistreating another? and Amman does not consume resources it does not generate by order of magnitude. where do you think Jordan’s tax base lies? Karak? Mafraq? Ya man, your arguments are so flawed I don’t know if your problem is lack of basic information or lack of sharaf.

  9. “I think another large problem remains the fact that the one-man one-vote system”

    Nas, i think this term is misleading since there is no one-man-one-vote system in jordan. an average Western reader would read this and assume that one-man-one-vote in Jordan is the same as one-man-one-vote in a Finish or Indian democracy, for example. In Jordan, there is 90000 man to one MP in one urban/liberal district vs. 2000 man to 1 MP in another loyalist/tribal district.

    “Staunchly conservative tribal areas are over-represented in parliament, with each MP representing 2,000-3,000 voters, compared with more than 90,000 voters per MP in the capital Amman.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7105281.stm

  10. maram: sorry, i dont mean to mislead, but i have faith that my readers will understand that the one-man on-vote system im refering to is that within the Jordanian context of this post and blog, and not that of Finland.

    thanks 🙂

  11. Rabee7,
    “representation in the parliament has nothing to do with right of return. it has something to do with fairness. no one is asking to elect the President of Jordan or to chart foreign policy and national security”.

    There are certain laws passed by the parliament do have direct and some times indirect effect on foreign and national security policies, the press law, public gathering law, the whole penal code, these laws were passed by parliaments and they were designed in a way to cripple your ability to protest, against any of these policies.
    Free press is one of the pillars o any democracy ( 4th branch ) but in Jordan read for Saleh Qallab ( a national treasure ) and you’ll know how retarded most of our journalists are.
    The truth is we all have to live by laws that were passed by a bunch of MPs most of which are ignorants or consumed or corrupted to the bones.

  12. Maslah, you just don’t get it.

    my point is, since the House of Nobles is appointed by the King and since no law in Jordan can be passed without the agreement of the 100% appointed House of Nobles and the agreement of the King, even in your worst case scenario, (a Jordanian parliament dominated by Islamists, arab nationalists, communists, and west bankers) NO LAW CAN BE PASSED THAT THE KING AND THE APPOINTED HOUSE OF NOBLES DO NOT AGREE TO.

    And even in the VERY ABSOLUTE worst case scenario, such as the House of Nobles conspiring with a worst case scenario parliament, the King can dissolve the parliament with the signature of his pen.

    That’s why many observers believe the parliament is nothing more than a very effective and useful tool to divide Jordanian society, since it wields marginal power, considering all the “checks and balances” put in its way.

    And that’s why patriotic Jordanians decided not to fall into the trap since the cost of fighting over crumbs is not worth compromising our national unity for anyone’s benefit. So we stay home or we take the first flight out. And that’s the ultimate and most noble form of sacrifice for Jordan.

  13. Nassem,,,Our democracy or I must say our constitutional democracy ended in1957 when,”our government arrested most of the elected members,we all remember Dr Yacoub zaideen ( originally from Karak) was elected by over whelming Majority of Jerusalem district.
    Since ,1957, the government has perfected the tools of manipulation in order to rule with virtually free hand without any serious oversight and scrutiny.
    The problem is not in the lack of SERIOUSE CONTENDER to challenge the one man show but the constant government brutal policy toward any body and I mean anybody ,be it An “east banker” or “west banker” that tries to put forward a serious proposal to change the status qua.
    In toujan Al faisal lecture at the university of Chicago explains everything ,from corruption ,human right abuses and mismanagement of public funds
    And here is the second part to whom it may concern Tuajan Al faisal ,again.

Your Two Piasters: