Can Jordan’s new parliament spearhead political change? | Election News
Amman- Jordan’s newly elected parliament is unlikely to lead to political change in the country, analysts say. “No drastic change is expected as opposition forces remain a small minority in parliament and are challenged by pro-government conservative MPs,” said Oraib Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies based in Al-Quds. Amman, at al-Jazeera.
According to final results released by the Independent Electoral Commission of Jordan on Sunday, the National Coalition for Reform, which represents the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and its allies, won 15 seats, including 10 seats won by the IAF, the political wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Nine political parties won 30 seats including the Islamist Zamzam Party (five seats), the National Current Party (four seats), the Islamic Centrist Party (five seats) and the Justice and Reform Party (two seats).
The Baath, Communist, National Union and Al Awn parties won one seat each.
However, the majority of newly elected MPs were either people with tribal affiliations or businessmen, as had been the case for the past two decades.
Election in Jordan: the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining ground
The Jordanian government will have to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a reality, as they exercise their legislative and supervisory role. They will hold meetings with politicians and ask tough questions of the government.
Jordan is often described as a tribal society, where ties to large family groups are crucial in defining who holds power. Jordanians admit that family and personal loyalties have a significant influence on political choices
The Muslim Brotherhood took part in the elections after boycotting the previous two in 2010 and 2013 to protest the one man, one vote system.
“In the aftermath of the 1989 elections, in which the Muslim Brotherhood won 30% of the seats, the “one man, one vote” system was put in place, effectively weakening the role of political parties in the Jordanian political system” , Anja Wehler-Schoeck, director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Jordan & Iraq in Amman, told al-Jazeera.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood is considered largest party by representation in newly elected parliamentanalysts say the group’s ability to pass new laws or revoke confidence in the government will be limited.
“Stronger blocs will be formed to strip Islamists of power to pass new laws and policies,” Rantawi said. According to articles 93 and 95 of the constitution10 deputies can propose a law but a majority must prove it.
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Analysts say the group viewed the elections as an opportunity to prove it had popular support among Jordanian voters, as well as open channels of communication with the state.
“The Jordanian government will have to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a reality, as they exercise their legislative and supervisory role. They will hold meetings with politicians and ask tough questions of the government,” Rakan Saaydah, a Jordanian journalist and commentator for the group, told al-Jazeera.
Tensions between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood have escalated since the group’s branch was shut down last April. In 2014, the Jordanian government enacted a new law requiring all organizations and political parties to register or renew their licenses.
Following this development, in March 2015, a dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood were expelled because they wanted the organization to distance itself from its international affiliations.
They have founded their own group, the government-sanctioned “Muslim Brotherhood Society”, which many believe enjoys the support of the Jordanian regime in order to undermine the original Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1945.
As the first sign of a thaw in relations between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, Queen Rania welcomed the group’s participation in the elections in a recent interview. The group immediately responded, welcoming the Queen’s remarks.
This year, Jordan made significant changes to its electoral law, replacing the controversial “one person, one vote” system with a list-based system designed to encourage political parties.
The new law, however, has stoked tensions between Jordanian tribes by forcing them to compete against each other in a complicated system of candidate lists. “This law is much worse than the old single-vote system. This created resentment between the tribes as each tribe started arguing to vote for their own candidates within the slate,” said former MP Mazen Dalaeen, who ran as a tribal candidate.
According to Dalaeen, around 10 tribes across Jordan had more than one representative in parliament while some did not, which could “create resentment and tension in the future”.
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Low turnout at the close of polls in Jordan
A lack of confidence in the electoral process was reflected in the national law’s turnout, with 1.5 million registered voters out of 4.1 million casting their ballots. Reports of vote buying, election rigging and interference by security forces in previous elections may have deterred many Jordanians from voting.
“They should just appoint deputies and stop this spectacle called an election,” Ahmad Quran, a Jordanian citizen who did not participate in the elections, told al-Jazeera. “Food prices and taxes have skyrocketed as the corrupt rob us. What has parliament done to hold them accountable? Quran added.
However, some remain optimistic that the “transparent” election, as well as the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliament, could be a small step forward.
“The majority [of MPs] might have tribal affiliation, but the fact that they are not supported by the state might give them a sense of freedom in parliament to oppose government policies,” Saaydah said.