The JCSR has been conducting a few surveys on Jordanian political reform. There was one in September, one in December (post 11/9 attacks) and now a more recent one conducted in May. This latest poll claims that 98.3% of Jordanians have never been a political party member (which makes the 1.7% that’s left kind of questionable). Also, only 2.1% are considering joining one.
Yesterday I talked about a political parties draft law and it’s implications on changing the political nature of the country. This same poll says that 79.6% know nothing about it.
Trust for political parties is at a 26.1% low (a 10% drop since the last poll in September)
Trust for Public Security is at a 94.3% high
Now here’s the ‘important’ part of the poll…if elections were held today:
19.7% would vote for Islamist (IAF) candidates (3.7% less than December but 50% less from September’s poll)
34.8% would vote for Nationalist candidates (down 9.2% since December’s poll)
30.7% would not base their vote on “ideological considerations” (an increase of 13.8% since September’s poll)
57.1% agreed with the statement Ã¢??things are going in the right directionÃ¢?Â in Jordan (down from the 70.6% of December’s poll)
JCSR Director Musa Shteiwi made a few interesting comments on the results. The reason for low political party participation is, according to him, because of a “historical trend of reliance on tribal and sectarian support in politics”. He calls the situation “grim but not terminal”. I love it when people use the words “grim” and “not terminal” to describe our current political situation; it’s encouraging.
Shteiwi also says the Amman Bombings unified the country but the effects have “tapered off” though the results are still better than September.
I don’t think such a poll should have been conducted in December to begin with; the numbers were predictably soft as many of the respondents were factoring in their initial feelings soon after the attacks. The reason there is little participation in political parties can be blamed on many factors most of which I believe the government and political parties are responsible for.
First, people are either stuck in old perspectives like Shtweiwi suggested or they are actually scared to involve themselves in politics in a country where dissent is not exactly its historical strong point. If the government wants to kill two birds with one stone here: convince people there is greater freedom to dissent and become active in political parties, that itÃ¢??s worth their time to do so, as well as their resounding objective to break the traditional mould of tribalism-dominated politics, then they are doing a terrible job at articulating that message.
The government is treading a progressive path with absolutely no social input and no sense of public relations. Granted that their message has over the last few months become clearer but it has not been relayed to the people at all. The message is just not getting out there; it’s why the 79.6% no nothing about the latest efforts. These polls numbers are only consistently disappointing because they reflect this very notion; they need to up the ante.
To put it in another way, the question should not have been whether people agree with the statement: “things are going in the right direction”, it should have been “is the government articulating it’s message?”. But I’m not a pollster.
Secondly, the government obviously does not want to see Islamists attaining more power than they already have but they’ve done little if at all nothing to encourage people to seek the political refuge of other parties. Instead they’ve relied on jailing the Islamists every now and then, which of course only alienates the moderates or the centrists to become more supportive of the IAF. It’s good to see their support has decreased but the government doesn’t get credit for that; this is an effect from the Amman bombings, sadly this is ZarqawiÃ¢??s legacy.
Political parties themselves are also to blame. They have done little to articulate their own platforms. Everyone knows the IAF because they’re always in the news and no press is bad press in this case; the jailings have worked to their advantage. So why haven’t they articulated their message? Either they donÃ¢??t have one or they’ve have had little effect on change. Both are probably true.
There is a genuine feeling of disenfranchisement in the country in the sense that on the rare occasion we do get to vote our votes are considered meaningless; not officially but thatÃ¢??s the perception. Why? Because we don’t know what any other political party other than the IAF actually stands for and that it really doesn’t matter because the government will do what it wants anyways.
I am talking about the erosion of legislative powers and authority. I am talking about how many temporary laws have been put in place in the last 5 years alone. The number is scary: over 230 and counting. There is no legislative authority for the lower house so what’s the point in saying there is in the constitution. Yes there is a contradiction in the constitution. What’s the point of having legislators if everything being legislated is done so when Parliament is not in session?
People’s priorities are still the same and we don’t need polls to tell us. Food, viable work, lower prices and security. They are uninterested in participating in a political process that yields no benefits for them and only gets them in “trouble”; itÃ¢??s just not worth their while. The government is trying to say that it is in the process of creating a system that redefines the very nature of our politics, but it’s done nothing to articulate the message and neither have the political parties done anything to encourage participation.
A long way to go…