A Process Story: On The Upcoming Jordanian Elections

It was Albert Einstein who supposedly defined insanity as performing the same act over and over again, and expecting different results. There is perhaps no better way to describe the Jordanian electoral process, or lack there of. In recent weeks, the masses have been virtually bombarded with the same consistently constant messages of assurances from the government: this time, the elections will be different. It goes without saying that such political platitudes have become commonplace lately, largely due to the fact that there is such a tough barrier for the government to overcome: public perception.

The public perception that the parliament is not only an anemic political body, but that the entire election process that elects 100-something representatives, is, in itself, massively flawed. These perceptions are not based on assumptions but rather on-the-ground realities and a historical legacy of Jordanian elections shrouded in elements of corruption. Suffice to say, these perceptions are real, which renders the government’s assurances a devalued currency on the street. Moreover, the recent decision by the Islamic Action Front – the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm – to boycott the elections goes a long way at not only eroding the credibility of the elections, but further altering public perceptions towards the negative, as the IAF is the only realistic government opposition and thus politically (if not religiously) represents a large segment of Jordanian society.

We should pose the obvious question: what real and tangible political development has taken place in the past three years since the last elections? Fairly little. Political parties remain underdeveloped, with lacking platforms that leave most candidates running as independents. The election law, despite recent changes to it, has maintained an electoral map rife with pockets of over- and under-representation, amidst a blur of new district lines and mass confusion regarding virtual districts. This is to say nothing of the some 600,000 expatriate Jordanians who cannot vote by absentee and thus have no say in political representation. This is to say nothing of the fact that the time frame between a candidate nominating him or herself, actually campaigning, and the inevitable voting day, is literally a matter of weeks – a time frame that is not nearly enough time for any electorate to properly know their candidates and their platforms (unless of course they are related to them).

Meanwhile, socially speaking, many of the problems that have played essential roles in the electoral process not only remain, but have also, as of late, become amplified. I would safely argue that tribalism mixed with notions of nationalism, stands at higher levels today than it did three or four years ago. The schism between urban and rural – rich and poor – has grown exponentially, and educating the masses on political process has remained fairly absent.

With this in mind, it is tough to have faith in the assurances of any Jordanian government that claims it will guarantee a free and fair election – a process it has been known to fiddle with in the past, for its own political gains. Moreover, with little political development and lack of genuine political reform taking place since the last election (or the one before that) – and with the same sociological, demographic and political realities that encouraged government meddling before – it is very difficult to imagine the result of this election being any different.

But that’s always been the problem with elections: the emphasis has always been placed on the outcome rather than the process. In reality, for a country like Jordan, the latter matters just as much, if not more. It is the manner in which a country is able to conduct an election that speaks volumes about its political development. It is the process story that, in the end, is the best barometer of progress. Anyone can cast ballot, but the manner in which a society votes is essential to its political evolution.

If it is voting within a flawed system that induces under- and over-representation; if it is voting in a political environment that is subject to government intervention; if it is voting in a political structure that has not developed in any tangible capacity over the past decade – then the political process is questionable. The process story is debatable. And the result, well, that won’t really matter too much.

This is not an attempt to articulate a message that aims at either encouraging Jordanians to vote, or discouraging from doing so. In fact, a citizen should be free to exercise what little political freedom is granted to them by the state – even it is in the form of electing a lower house of parliament that has few, real political powers. This is to say nothing of the fact that, yes, some democratic values must be alive at the core of the citizenry in whatever small shape or form is allowed, because the act of voting is in fact empowering and does have the ability to shift mindsets.

However, if the state is truly and genuinely interested in seeing the results of a free election, a new story needs to be written. Not one based on assurances. Not one based on promises. But rather one that has all the required ingredients for the telling of a good story. From educating the masses while they’re still in school, to creating better political climates for better political party development, to a more democratic election law that is created through community-driven input rather than scribbled down in a matter of weeks behind closed doors, to creating true political representation, to allowing for a decent interval of time for campaigning, to allowing for all citizens to vote (wherever they may be on election day) – and on, and on.

With so many ingredients missing, I might go so far as to support a postponement of the elections. Especially when we consider that this is a country that had its parliament dissolved in November, appointed a new government in December, wrote a new election law in May, and opened the doors for voter registration a few weeks later. This story reads more like a bad romantic comedy than the political process of a developing nation.

Perhaps more time should be given for a new story to be written. Otherwise, four years from now (or less, depending on how well this parliament performs this time around) – we will have yet another government telling the same story, and at that point, we, the people, by Einstein’s definition, would be quite insane to think the results will be any different.
And Einstein was a pretty smart guy.


  • Johhn Stuart Mill once said “When society requires to be rebuilt, there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan.”

    The new election law like the old one-for instance-, is supposed to punish ones who sell or buy votes, now have you ever heard of someone being punished for that? All I hear is government officials nagging on the importance of electing and how they won’t tolerate corruption or political money.

    The general reception of the upcoming elections is really terrible, with all the official assurances and media coverage people have lost the will to once again let their votes generate a Lower House so bad and corrupt that it had to be dismissed by a Royal Decree.

    So, the same law, same attitude only change of names, same method will lead to the same results…Einstein is a smart guy indeed, and we will probably witness the outcome of his brilliant theories, but for how long?

  • If only we hear as much from the ministry of political development as we do from the ministry of education or from economic ‘initiatives’. The former’s flourishing is as important as the latter two.

  • Eyas,
    The minister of Political development is literally powerless. The minister of interior and the upper decision making “kitchen” are in charge. Plus when listening to him you can tell he doesn’t believe or buy what he is trying to sell us.

  • Sir…. Arabs are not cut for democracy or at least bedouins ! it will never happen plain and simple esp. when there is no firm religious beliefs in those individuals !! and what even though i do tend to be on the extreme side of the islamic brothers i am very happy about their choice it shows strength and principle ,unlike many of the bloggers and journalists who are on the government pay-roll who keep twisting this as a point of weakness and even unpatriotic ! thats it’s just sad !

    great article and take on the subject


  • @ma7moodjo:

    Care to explain the Bedouin mentality and why a Bedouin is just “not cut for democracy”?

    See, I’m not sure if I fall under the that category “Bedouin” as I have Bedouin origins and I am proud of my Bedouin heritage but I don’t exactly live in a tent like my ancestors did or move around in search of grazing land, although I moved a few countries in search of better jobs, but I don’t think that puts me in the “بدو رحل” category?? Also, I’m not quite sure what you meant by saying that those individuals have “no firm religious beliefs”? Did you mean that Bedouins are infidels? If that is what was meant then we’re surely not Bedouins because I know a lot of my relatives pray and stuff and that wouldn’t make any sense if we were infidel Bedouins!

    I’m confused! If I’m a Bedouin then I shouldn’t be voting because I’m just not cut for this, AND I’m a god damn infidel!! and if I’m not a Bedouin, well, then what the hell am I ???!

  • What if the integrity of this process checks out and that ends up not being our real problem?

    My challenge is the who. And a blank ballot is one of the options.

    And because we’re part of this process, shouldn’t we (citizens, feel free to opt in or out) have thought about it, talked about it, worked it months ago? Years ago? What has civil society done to impact this process to the better over the past year/three years? If gov have been difficult to engage with on this, and they have, citizens did not show massive dismay. Similar to the same old process that frustrates from the gov, it seems citizens too did not do much to reframe that debate/kick up a storm/articulate a powerful stand. Here we are again chatting about it at the zero hour. Like you say, on and on.

    But there are still 3 months to go. Is there a serious group of people working towards nominating someone who will take a stand, campaign for ideas, and if elected will be true to the pledge? Has a group somewhere been nurturing such a possible candidate for any one of the seats? Even if within a law and process that is not perfect, if this person is elected, that’s a seed. If nurtured and willing, that seed can grow to be quite a voice. The same old will be hacked into. Disruption happens. New possibilities. What if there’s more than one?

    Is it easy? No.
    Do we have the perfect conditions for it? No.
    Is the solution in the hands of gov only? No.
    Is it possible? Yes.
    Is it hard? No. It’s just hard work.

    And even if your person does not win but runs a campaign you subscribe to/aspire for, it matters, coz like you say, process matters.

    With your 7iber work you’ve been in touch with various groups of people through your social media programs around Jordan with different communities – it would be interesting to hear from you if this conversation comes up and what it revolves around.

    The good story you’re looking for requires many authors. Inquire within.

  • @ lalfayez

    WOW …. hhahaha no you kind of twisted my words or at least you were in a bad mood when you read this so it kind of got mis-understood ! first Bedouin mentality is the mentality that we all own as arab ino feeha ashyaa2 mnee7a akeed il ethaaar ou ikraam il daif …etc ,, but on the other hand feee 3ina lets say 3’aba we are not that smart ,, never a team player ” hence come the problem of democracy to us “,, know it all ,, all we care about is lust and sex and a major Inferiority complex ! and am cool with that it’s who we are we can’t change it !

    now if you can deny that 90 will vote to anyone just because family ties , I am all ears !

    about the religious beliefs damn ! i have issues with religion ! but il kol bi7ki 3anii ino 3indi a5laag ! bas on the other hand kol sha3ibnaa bil jame3 ou mo3zamoo kazaab monafek ou 7aramiii ou akbaar daleel keef ino 3ashayer kamleh mista3deh tdog bi ba3ad ou ti7rig ou thaded mowa6eneen tanyeen ! ya3ni hada daleel ino ma ba5oof la min il qanoon wala il doleh wala 7ata 2alla tab3aan fee ktheer amthleh thanieh ! bas ma 3alina 3omrek smi3tii 7ada bibee3 sotoo 3shan sider mansaaaf ! yin3an 5ara mish haek bardoo !

    no offense intended ! thanks for your reply i hope i kind of cleared things up but i am in a hurry so sorry if its still hazy


  • I love how you added the line, “…unless of course they are related to them.” When it comes to voting in Jordan (or just about any other sort of “popularity contest”), nepotism abounds.

  • @ma7moodjo:

    Well if that was what you meant then I apologize for my post, I was in a pretty bad state when I wrote that, I just read what you wrote as an attack on my kind… I share your frustrations and I understand what you’re trying to say, I for one don’t understand why my ID has to have “دائرة بدو الوسط” on it, why can’t I just be free to vote whoever I want wherever I want? I believe in change, I believe that a lot of Jordanians want to change but I doubt we will see real change any time soon as long as certain arrangements remain in place.


  • @ lalfayez
    its all good ! dnt worry as long as you are not shooting me ya3ni balash ma yseeer afeehaa 3atwaat ou jahaat ! hehehe
    and as you said the first step is to talk about it the change must be within us the youth !


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