On Wednesday, Jan. 23, Jordanians will head to the ballot to cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections there since the beginning of the Arab revolutions. Islamists, liberals and a large number of opposition civil forces, however, are boycotting the elections.
While the Jordanian government greatly relies on the results of these elections and seeks to make them a starting point for extensive reform in its fight against corruption, political observers and analysts think that the elections won’t offer anything new, and that the next Jordanian parliament will be a replica of the map of the previous parliament. Moreover, they believe that the competition over the 150 parliamentary seats will be restricted to clans and conservatives (those close to the government), while parliamentary representation within the big cities, mainly populated by Palestinians and where large numbers of the Muslim Brotherhood live, will decline in favor of the rural regions that have a tribal composition.
According to left-wing activists, the percentage of seats that the participating leftist and national parties obtain will reveal the weakness of these entities, and the future parliament will keep a “special leftist quota,” just like the previous one.
In this respect, leftist activist Fakher Daas told Al-Hayat that “the parties supporting the leftist opposition will not get more than one seat at most, due to the weakness of their material components.” Daas said that the current electoral law “hugely contributes to weakening the chances of factional candidates and strengthening the tribal forces and independents.” The five participating leftist and national parties received one seat in the previous parliament, but they regularly express their hopes of increasing their share in the new parliament.
Head of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies Oraib al-Rantawi told Al-Hayat that “the core of the new parliament won’t be different from the other parliaments, especially since more than two-thirds of the parliament’s seats will be elected according to the one-vote law. The wager on the electoral lists won’t do any good, mainly because some official estimates indicate that the biggest electoral list will obtain three to five seats at best.” Oraib added, “We have to expect the success of a big number of figures from the previous parliament. I believe that the new legislative entity will include MPs for services, tribes and clans.”
However, government spokesperson Minister Samih al-Maaytah thought that “the future parliament will perform well and will play exemplary roles.” Speaking to Al-Hayat, he said, “This parliament will assume power amidst highly critical political conditions and remarkable public-movement activity demanding reform and a fight against corruption. All of these factors will push the parliament to do its best. We must be fair, though. The previous parliament didn’t do an absolutely terrible job, but we must also admit that the social dimension still prevails over Jordanian society, and that factional life is still weak and nascent.”
The current electoral law was amended last July so that the next parliament will include 150 seats instead of 120. A total of 28 seats are reserved for a national list that has received approval for the first time, while 15 seats will go to a quota for women, in addition to 108 independent seats.
Not long before the elections, a scandalous video tape showing some former MPs and current candidates was leaked suddenly yesterday morning [Jan. 21], sparking a wide debate in Amman. It also provoked a wave of chaotic anger within a Jordanian tribe as the countdown to election day began.
The video showed a special session involving a group of members of the former parliament drinking alcohol. The voice of the former speaker of parliament and one of the main candidates for the current elections, Abdel Karim al-Doghmi, could be heard on the tape. He was insulting the deputy prime minister and former minister of interior Nayef al-Qadi, whose tribe, one of the largest in Jordan, broke out in anger despite calls for restraint from its leaders on the eve of the elections. The tape also showed the current parliamentary candidate, former MP Atef al-Tarawna, former MP Mamdouh al-Abadi and former minister of interior Saed Hayel al-Srour.
Meanwhile, al-Doghmi denied the authenticity of the tape and said it was “made up,” while al-Abadi admitted that it was real. The tape spread quickly over social-networking websites and was named “The biggest scandal for the Jordanian MPs on the eve of disbanding the 2012 parliament.” The individual who leaked the video tape is still unknown.
Some of the candidates accused of misusing political money and arrested by the Jordanian authorities are trying to manage their advertising campaigns from prison with the help of intermediaries, “brokers” and figures close to them, 24 hours before the elections. Experts on electoral affairs believe that some of the figures who were arrested or questioned might get lucky. On the other hand, the convictions of some of them might jeopardize the legal quality of the future parliament.
Until yesterday, four candidates were still behind bars in the famous al-Jwaida prison, south of Amman, on suspicion of committing “penal crimes” punished by the law.