On 20th October the citizens of Jordan elected a new parliament. A total of 1,252 candidates fielded by 226 lists were vying for the Lower House’s 130 seats, of which 15 are allocated to the women’s quota. The voting was extended for one hour in 15 of the 23 constituencies. Official numbers about the turnout have not been presented yet, but observers said the national percentage was 37 percent, with Amman recording the lowest at around 23 percent and the Southern Badia the highest at around 84 percent. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced most seats were won by tribal leaders, established figures and independent businessmen, loyal to the government. In addition, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), while boycotting the last elections, won 15 seats, most of them in Amman’s districts. The elections also witnessed the exit of some candidates and former MPs considered as heavyweights. Former MPs Mahmoud Kharabsheh Of Balqa, Amjad Maslamani of Amman 3rd District, Mufleh Rheimi of Jerash and Saad Hayel Srour of the Northern Badia have failed to secure a return to parliament. Srour was previously a speaker of the Lower House.
Renewed Election law
These parliamentary elections were the first to be conducted under the new Elections Law, which adopts a proportional electoral system. Another new aspect in the law is that registration for the elections is not optional. Therefore, the number of eligible voters rose to 4,130,142 from 2,288,043 in the 2013 elections. In addition, the introduction of the Election Law saw a reduction in the number of seats in the Lower House from 150 to 130. Jordanians traditionally votes according to tribal and family allegiances. However, the electoral laws, which played in favour of pro-government and tribal candidates, were reformed to allow for some party lists. The reform based on proportional representation led to more candidates from political parties vying for votes.
Islamic Action Front (IAF)
New during this elections was the participation of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Jordan’s main political opposition. It boycotted the last two elections to protest the previous election laws. This year, it decided to participate in the election, because of the introduction of party lists. It formed 20 lists running under Al Islah bloc, or the National Coalition of Reform, which includes Christians, members of other political parties and tribal leaders. The result was 15 out of 130 available seats in the Lower House, of which IAF candidates took 10 and the rest went to their allies, making it the biggest opposition bloc in parliament.
Observers (EU EOM and PACE)
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) deployed 40 short-term observers throughout the country on the election day, after being invited by the Jordanian Independent Election Commission. In the preliminary statement of EOM, presented by Jo Leinen, he once again confirmed it was a well administrated election, although room for additional improvement of the legal framework remains. In particular, respect for key principles, such as the universality and equality of the vote, and the right to stand as candidate could be further enhanced. Furthermore, he said that under the current districting, large urban areas are underrepresented and sparsely populated or rural areas are considerably overrepresented. A final report – with recommendation for future elections – will be published within two months from the completion of the electoral process.
Observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were also present to monitor the elections. In its preliminary statement, PACE said the IEC organized the parliamentary vote with integrity and in full transparency. Furthermore, it commended the professionalism and courtesy of the members of the polling stations that the delegation met during its visit. The delegation noted that some aspects of the electoral process could be improved by heeding the advice of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Jordan’s parliament obtained the status of “Partner for Democracy” with PACE in 2016.