The first proposals regarding the election law have begun to come to light in Jordan, following royal guidance for political reforms of legislation on the organisation of political life, the most significant of which concerns elections and political parties.
King Abdullah II decided to form the committee on the 10th June last year in the hope of establishing considered changes to the shape of political life in the Kingdom.
Jamil al-Nimri, a member of the Royal Committee of reforming political life, revealed that most prominent discussions and prioritised proposals had been put forward by an election sub-committee within the Royal Committee, yet ‘all of the agreements that we have settled upon are preliminary and subject to change, for the final decision belongs to the general committee. We have agreed to maintain the quota of fifteen seats for women and there may be an increase in this share during the arrangement of national lists, rising to as many as twenty three. We also decided that there will be one hundred and ten seats for the different constituencies and forty seats in the national list will be reserved for party lists. Al-Nimri continues, ‘but this is not yet fixed. We have taken into consideration the demographic distribution and decreased the number of seats in some of the constituency by twenty percent and left some of them as they are. Today, we offer an environment where national lists will have forty seats to incorporate parties into the parliamentary process.
Yet, is there any guarantee that the decisions of the Royal Committee will be applied if their decisions are agreed upon? Al-Nimri answers, ‘There is no guarantee of this unless the King wishes so, for no-one is able to overrule the King’s guidance. Until now the Committee has worked without guidelines. What we can be sure of, however, is the situation that Jordan now finds itself in - we are in an economic crisis and there is no chance of reform. This is the statement all ministers are now giving with regards to all ongoing issues.’
Six subcommittees have emerged from the Royal Committee aiming to reform political organisation, focusing on ‘the youth, women, local administration, the election law, political parties and constitutional amendments.
The King is the guarantor
In his letter to the President of the Committee, Samir al-Rafi, King Abdullah II pledges to ensure the outcomes of the committee in the face of any interference, saying, ‘I guarantee, before all the Jordanian people, that the results of your work will be adopted by my government and that they will proceed immediately to the National Assembly without any interference or attempts to change them or impact upon them.’
He continued in his letter, ‘I appoint you as the President of the Royal Committee to reform of political organisation, which will aim to put in place new project for the Election Law and a new project for the law on political parties, to look at constitutional amendments relating to the rule of law and mechanisms for representative action and to present suitable recommendations for the development of governmental legislation of local administrative organisation’.
The fight against ‘election engineering’ and shady deals
The spokesperson of the election subcommittee in the Royal Committee, Amer Bani Amer, also confirmed that the proposals and opinions from the Committee are not final. He stated that ‘there are a number of agreements and scenarios that have been put forward in the Committee, such as good representation for women and representation of political parties via the national list. In my opinion, this will be of added value and importance as it will lead to a significant shift in the scene of the electoral process. Parliament will have a programme and groupings, so citizens will be able to monitor the parliamentary programme, all .'of which emphasises the supervisory role inside parliament and teamwork
According to Bani Amer, issues that will be discussed by the committee will include ‘the control of financial expenditure in electoral propaganda and there will be a change regarding penal sanctions for corruption. Controls will be put on the electoral process in order to safeguard the elections against what is called ‘engineering’ and to protect against the buying and selling votes. The Committee is pushing for transparency of the electoral process, so that when gathering and triaging votes, the IAAC will require results of every online and in person centre to be announced and copies must be handed over to every candidate list without delay, so that all the votes can be gathered’.
The Islamists prefer Law ’89
The General Secretary of the Islamic Labour Front Party, Murad Al-Adaiyla, is not quick to judge Committee’s suggestions regarding the election law, saying, ‘It is hard to talk optimistically now. We, in the Islamic Labour Front Party, will judge the Committee according to their results, and most importantly, regarding the election law’.
Al-Adaiyla does not disguise the leaning of the Islamists towards electoral law and order equivalent to the law upon which the elections of 1989 were based.
He says, ‘since 1993 we have been tripping up over ourselves. Laws were put in place which intended to politically exclude the Islamic movement and also Jordanians of Palestinian origin, and therefore we in the Islamic movement see that the most suitable law to reform the Jordanian political environment would be the law of 1989. This is the result that would allow Islamists, leftists and conservatives to participate in the parliamentary process, for we all represent the nature of Jordanian society and we believe that the law belongs to the nation’.
Elections took place in 1989 in Jordan, in line with the open list system that law number 22 decided upon from 1986 and as per its amendments, the electorate had the right to choose the number of candidates equal to the number of parliamentary seats assigned to them in their electoral constituency and in this round of elections, the Islamists won twenty two out of eighty seats in the Chamber.
The Muslim Brotherhood organisation has participated in the Committee, represented by two former deputies, Hamza Mansour and Dima Tahboub, in addition to Wa’il Al-Saqqa and Al-Hadi Al-Falahet. According to Al-Adaiyla, the Labour Party, alongside over 26 parties, submitted suggestions to the Committee, requesting an allocation of 50% of seats in parliament for national lobbies and the other half for independents, all while maintaining the quotas’.
A-Adaiyla asked the Jordanian Authority that these reforms would be accompanied by legislation that would create a political environment receptive to the idea of relaxing the secure hold on the parties and the syndicates.
Half of Jordanians were convinced that there was a ‘false’ process that marred the parliamentary elections, whereas 36% opposed this idea. 56% were of the opinion that the election law in its current form is ‘unfair’.
According to a poll of public opinion conducted by the Centre for Strategic Studies in the Jordanian University regarding ‘the parliamentary election law’, 72% of people support the allocation of seats for members of the House of Representatives at a national level compiled from lists of individuals (and not from parties), whereas only 21% support the idea of partisan lists.
Jordan has formerly seen a number of ‘projects and reform committees' but up until now, not one of them has seen the light of day. The most significant of them was in 2011 at the time of the Arab Spring, when King Abdullah II created the National Dialogue Committee, tasked with bringing about political reforms.
The King has made room for a series of discussion papers and political initiatives, such as ‘Jordan first’ and ‘We are all Jordan’ in 2002, ‘the National Agenda’ in 2005, and the ‘Jordanian Document of 2025’. All of them have fallen short and the election laws have stayed, leaving us with deputies who do not represent the great majority of the people (only 29% participation in the election in 2020).