On 23 January parliamentary elections were held in Jordan. The turnout was 56.7 %, the electoral commission said. The government hailed the elections, saying that ‘more democracy is coming’. Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour called the elections ‘a stepping stone on the path to more reforms’. Opposition parties boycotted the election over changes in the voting system and doubted the official turnout figures. They say the voting system is rigged in favour of the king. Former Member of Parliament, Mustafa Shneikat, was leading a leftist coalition under the name Al-Shaab, “People’s List”.
The Independent Elections Commission (IEC) has announced that the voter turnout was 56.7%. IEC kept polling stations open for an extra hour to allow more people to vote, because the voter turnout was low, especially in Amman. The final turnout is dubbed by some local watchdogs and the opposition. The Islamic Action Front (IAF) stated that the turnout was inflated in the last two hours: ‘security agencies have a scheme to increase turnout’. According to international and local observers the election was well managed and there were no systematic violations committed, except for some incidents that did not affect the integrity of the election process. For the first time, the country has allowed observers and an independent election commission to oversee the polling. Al-Shaab, the leftist coalition, managed to obtain a seat in parliament. Al-Shaab obtained one seat in the vote on national level, in the name of Mustafa Shneikhat. On district level, Adnan Ajarmeh was chosen as independent in the 7th district of the Amman Governorate. In the second district of the Irbid governorate, Jamil Nimri won the Christian seat as a independent. Both Adnan Ajarmeh and Jamil Nimri are member of the Jordanian Social Democratic Party (JSDP).
Jordan’s electoral system has recently been changed by the 2012 Electoral Law approved by parliament. One of the changes is that the king will name a prime minister from one of the large blocs, or someone approved by those blocs. Another change, that has been made in the system, is to give the electorate two votes. One vote on district level (constituency votes) and one vote on national level. Only 27 of the 150 seats can be allocated to a national political party through proportional representation. 819 candidates, including 86 women, are running on 61 tickets competed for the 27 House seats. 15 of the 150 seats go to female candidates by quota. In the old election law this was 12. The rest of the seats are chosen by a first-past-the-post system. 108 out of 150 seats are chosen by constituency votes. It is also the first-time opportunity for security forces to vote.
Two thirds of the inhabitants of Jordan live in cities, while proportionally, they get less than a third of the district seats. The original Bedouins on the other hand, are overrepresented in this system. The Bedouins are seen as the fundament of Jordan’s monarchy. They dominate both government and security. Opposition forces, most notably the Islamic Action Front, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, are boycotting the polls. The IAF boycotted the election over changes to the voting system and want a parliament that is not only representative of the popular will but also has real power. King Abdullah has called the boycott a ‘tremendous miscalculation’, urging Jordanians to embrace reforms being put in place.
Sources: BBC, Deutsche Welle, Identity Center, Jordan Times