The Jordanian parliament on 23 August has endorsed a decentralization law that will grant local governments and councils larger powers. The law, even though highly criticized, is one of the first steps to further democratization in Jordan. It is supposed to widen the participation of the Jordanian people in the decision making process and encourage economic development.
The new law will grant eligible voters with two votes each as they will elect the governorate council, which represents a local legislature. The local councils will be elected for a four years term and the government is allowed to appoint 25 percent of the councils. Also, the prime minister's office holds the power to dismantle elected councils, call for new elections or postpone elections. Among the requirements for future councils it is said they have to be no younger than 25, have to hold a university degree, they should also prove they have clean criminal history and no affiliations with a non-Jordanian political parties in order to run for elections. The new law has also a clause whereby the interior minister is allowed to send armed forces to restore order if the local police is no longer capable to cope with the situation.
The debates over the draft bill in the parliament lasted for almost a year. Supporters of the law argued that the bill would speed up reforms and trim bureaucracy as well as improve the democratization implementation. They emphasized the wider possibility for locals to participate in decision-making as the country is fragmented and many groups remain underrepresented. The opponents pointed out that the implementation of the law will be too costly while the economic situation is poor and might cause problems related with transparency and corruption as well as the risk of power capture by local elite.
Women rights activists were extremely disappointed by the endorsement as the parliament decided to remove the 15 percent women quota in governorate councils and are calling the government to bring back the quota. The quota was previously proposed by MP Wafa Bani Mustafa and endorsed by a majority of MPs. Once it was approved activists hailed it as a big victory for women in Jordan. Salma Nims from the National Commission for Women (JNCW) called the reverse of the quota a "step backwards for women's movement". Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI/Jordan) stated that women are still the weaker link in Jordan and they should be granted at least 30 percent quotas in all public spheres to be effective.
Jordan Times I II, Ansa Med, Freedom House, Jordan News Agency (PETRA)