It wasn’t the worst election in Jordanian history, but aside from an increase in women participation, it left a lot to be desire in terms of changes. But hey, what kind of election would it be if the Islamists didn’t illegally pull out while accusing the government of vote rigging, or without fights and skirmishes in various districts. What kind of election would it be without the Jordanian government failing to deliver on its promise that all the voting centers would be wheelchair accessible, leaving a lot of people being carried up to the second floor of buildings in a normal chair.
Jordan Times has an interesting article that showed most women who voted actually voted for a male relative rather than a fellow woman. This was despite the massive government campaign to encourage people to vote for a woman; a campaign that included a quota system, commercials, and adverts all around the country.
It should be noted though, that for a municipal election, the kind of campaigning and/or enthusiasm that was generated when it came to voting, is something that I personally have never seen before. It’s an observation I’ve heard several people say.
The results are yet to be seen, both voting wise and practically speaking. However judging from the events in the last 24 hours its safe to assume little has changed in the past few years.
Numbers and statistics that are destined to come out this week will no doubt reveal traditional practices that include voting for a relative, not voting for a woman, or making the choice to not vote at all in what is a very craven on-the-ground view of the political system as a whole.
Why? Many reasons.
Because people were not presented with an alternative. Candidates did little campaigning to begin with. Aside from tents where they spoke for a few minutes (if at all) before serving coffee and sweets, most people didn’t know much about the candidates. Jordanians by default will vote for a relative, but when they’re not offered an alternate paradigm to the current status-quo, then there’s no valid reason for them to ever change it. Some candidates, specifically in west Amman, seemed to either come from affluent backgrounds or had corporate sponsorship, judging simply from the thousands spent on posters and advertisements. This is a huge leap from the standard cheap painted banners that hang from intersections. These posters had a profound affect on West Ammanis in particular, as we moved from “voting for a relative because we don’t know anyone else running” towards the more western style of “voting for the guy whose face is everywhere”. It was pretty much the first time I ever saw the subliminal art of mass media campaigning having an actual affect on people. Although I’m pretty sure that these same people stayed home on election day and did their laundry, because I’m also pretty sure that West Amman had relatively low voter turnout.
Here’s another reason:
Because people have become accustomed to broken promises. Despite all the window-dressing to encourage voting, I’m not so sure that was done for the sake of actual encouragement of political participation. Instead, it felt more like the need for greater participation across the board in order to curb the influence of the Islamists this time around. A fear that the latter would find a new found success in the context of regional Islamist successes that include Hamas and Hizballah. But it’s not just the general feeling of voter melancholy. The government could not even deliver on its promise to make voting venues wheelchair accessible, so what should the people come to expect of the public sector?
As for the Islamists, I can’t really judge what happened. I’m not sure exactly what their beef was specifically. The official line is that the government conducted vote rigging by transporting plain clothed soldiers between stations. Soldiers are entitled to vote and I really don’t know how anyone would recognize that these were the same people who voted a few minutes ago elsewhere, unless they were tailing them. Duplicate IDs being registered should prove this story to be true or false.
The decision to allow only registered voters participate was idiotic. Voter registration should only be implemented in an attempt to ease the burden of registering on the day of, as well as encouraging overall voting before election day, and getting decent feedback on how many will vote on that day. So suffice to say, the majority of Jordanians who were not registered had a day off from work and that was about it.
The inability to properly articulate the location of voting venues left the information center at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs packed and the phone lines busy. The ministry set up a poorly designed and dysfunctional website that wouldn’t load the page assigned to inform voters of the venues. This was instead of using newspapers to disseminate supplements to inform the people weeks and weeks before the elections.
Like I said before, the elections had a lot to be desired. I’ll be back later to talk a bit more on the results and voting in general.
Read a whole lot more on the elections from fellow Jordanian Bloggers:
– The Face of Elections in Jordan
– To Vote or Not to Vote!
– Elections Interrupted in Madaba???
– The Islamic Action Front Withdrew from the Elections
– My First Municipal Elections
– A good night for the National Democratic Front
– IAF withdraws from the municipal elections
– “Islamists”, to where?
– MB and elections: Egypt vs Jordan