Tribal factor, low voter turnout mark Jordan polls
LONDON - Preliminary results of Jordan’s parliamentary elections indicated that tribal-linked figures are likely to dominate the country’s 130-seat legislative body.
The elections were also marked by a return of the Muslim Brotherhood to parliament in addition to an increase in the number of women MPs.
Turnout of 37%, down from 56% in 2013, cast a shadow over the polls, especially when taking into account the decision by Islamists not to boycott the election, as they had in previous votes. Disillusionment with the process, especially among young Jordanians, was cited by some as a likely cause.
“What’s the point in voting? No matter who is elected the outcome is the same,” said Tariq Masharqah, 26, an auditor based in Amman. MPs, he said, “don’t serve the country and there is no accountability when problems happen”.
Ali Jawarna, a Jordanian who is a university lecturer in Britain, said tribal and regional loyalties dictated voting choices.
“Candidates make it to parliament due to their tribal or area affiliations. This has always been the case and always will be. Even Brotherhood members are elected that way,” said Jawarna. “We don’t have democracy.”
But he said he would have voted along the same lines had he been in Jordan.
“If I was in Jordan I would have voted for my cousin. I must stand by him,” Jawarna said.
Some observers said there is hope for change, which could be reflected in future elections.
The “elections will test whether the independence we have seen in the current election cycle is a fluke or we are actually witnessing a progressive election process that is here to stay,” Daoud Kuttab, an Amman-based Palestinian journalist, wrote in an opinion piece in the Jordan Times.
Others said Jordan’s problems go deeper.
“The (albeit limited) constitutional ‘powers’ given to Jordan’s elected deputies are shared equally with a non-elected House of Senate, whose members are appointed by the king — the holder of all key powers within the state,” wrote Fadi al-Qadi, a human rights commentator based in Amman, in an opinion article for the New Arab.
The Muslim Brotherhood, via its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), formed alliances with non-Islamists under the banner of the National Coalition for Reform (NCR) and secured 16 seats in parliament.
This is lower than the 30 seats it had hoped for but still more than other established parties.
The notable increase of women MPs, who won 20 seats, compared with 18 out of 150 in 2013, was cause for celebration for some activists. Five women won seats outside the 15-seat quota and there were a record 252 female candidates.
“It’s a sign of growing acceptance among the public,” Asma Khader, a former Jordanian minister, told the British newspaper the Guardian.
Others warned that having more female MPs does not automatically mean they will defend women’s rights.
They would either “focus their work on service to their own communities” or “direct their work towards their party’s agendas,” Mai Abul Samen, the head of the Women’s Committee at the Senate, told the Jordan Times.