AMMAN, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah issued a decree on Sunday dissolving parliament and told the government to prepare for multi-party polls later this year, officials said.
They said the decree dissolving the 110-member parliament, whose four-year term formally ended last April, and the call to prepare for elections, was a clear sign that the monarch would not use his constitutional right to delay the polls.
The government is expected to set an election date this week, probably in November.
Conservative politicians had urged the king to delay elections because they fear the opposition Islamist movement, which seeks political change through peaceful means, may make electoral gains similar to those of their ideological allies in the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Turkey. [source]
This news wasn’t really supposed to have any shock value to it as it should come as no surprise that this was destined to happen. There was some talk these last few days about the possibility of the King delaying the elections due to the outcome of the municipal elections which saw acknowledgeable corruption on the part of the government the lead to an Islamist boycott. Soon thereafter a miniature public relations war was ignited between the government and the Islamists. The war’s primary dominoes included the govt declaring the boycott to be illegal (it’s against the law to withdraw a part on the day of the elections), followed by the IAF seeking ‘international justice’, followed by the PM suggesting (perhaps and hopefully, jokingly) that such a thing did not ‘agree with Jordan’s democratic spirit, and then essentially drawing one of the worst imaginable political analogies between the IAF and the Naher il-Barid situation in Lebanon. This (kind of) ended with a government denial that anything ever happened. Just like that machine thingy in the movie Men in Black, that makes people forget things.
Three weeks out and in all the mess, the government has managed to do what it usually does when it wants to crush support for the Islamists: it becomes the Islamists most prominent benefactor by sending their way more support than ever before. To invoke a political analogy along the lines of the PM’s; think of the proportional relationship between the US and Al-Queda.
The gains of their “ideological allies”, as so feared by the conservative politicians mentioned in the article above, are nothing when compared to how much support the Islamists in Jordan get just from the government. It’s the political personification of shooting oneself in the foot, which comes right before the traditional placing of the foot in the mouth. I think they have a foot fetish.
In all seriousness, I truly believe that the government has yet to find an effective way of achieving the goal of clamping down on Islamist support without actually giving them even more support in the process. My suggestion would be for them to get as close as they can with the Islamists. Even take the same positions. Become best buddies. Go fishing together in the Dead Sea or something. Generally, Jordanians are suspicious of anything or anyone that is that close to the government so they’ll eventually stop voting for the IAF.
Perhaps the King’s decision to send the whole ‘parliamentary elections will not be delayed’ message to the public, was an attempt to jump out of a painted corner while placing an early stranglehold on the IAF’s sympathy vote; a card the party was destined to play in the weeks heading up to the next elections. If elections become set then the debate shifts.
While that’s all gumdrops and lollipops, the problem is that once you set elections you also set certain expectations. This is especially true since not a lot of time will have passed to make what happened in the municipal elections a fleeting memory. To say nothing of the fact that with everyone tripping on the bar of expectations that was set pretty low the last time around, the next elections are likely to be taken more seriously. More people will be paying attention.
Whether Islamists boycott or not. Whether they win big or don’t at all. This is all besides the point and pretty much insignificant, despite what the politically tone-deaf proponents of the whole ‘they are the only legitimate party’ mantra say.
What will matter and what will take center stage is how the elections are conducted. If there is even a scent of fraud then not only do the elections lose all credibility but the political process in Jordan will be set back a few decades. We can forget any plans about strengthening parties and all that jazz, because no one (except the foot fetish people) will be voting for some time.
Most Jordanians have come to expect corruption in their elections (if not their system). But I doubt the mood will be so, forgiving, after two corrupt elections in the same year.