Jordan election: the same old song?


Jordan’s parliamentary elections on September 20 have produced a parliament that will contain opposition figures for the first time in a decade, analysts Michele Dunne and Marwan Muasher write for the Carnegie Endowment’s Diwan blog:

The new legislature will include 15 deputies from the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood (fewer than the 20 that were expected), as well as a larger proportion of women deputies than ever before—20 out of 130 members, more than the 15 required under the quota system. The 2016 electoral law set aside the despised one-man one-vote system in favor of a form of proportional representation, and the Independent Electoral Commission ran the elections competently and consistently by most accounts. All of that was good news. 

Many questions remained, however, about what these elections signified in the broader context of governance in Jordan. Did the redistricting for these elections redress longstanding gerrymandering? Did the elections constitute a meaningful move in the direction of King Abdullah’s stated objective of “developing political parties and bringing forth parliamentary governments?” And will they help to restore the confidence of jaded Jordanian voters, after a decade in which voting was seen as an empty game manipulated by the government?

The presence of a real opposition in parliament, even if slim, should contribute to bridging the trust gap, according to Muasher and Dunne, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy:

The Maan (“Together”) list, calling for a secular, democratic state, was able to win two seats in the same Amman district despite being aggressively and unfairly attacked by the Islamists as atheists. Whether such a liberal trend can grow, at a time when incumbents who also pushed the cause of democracy lost their seats, will be worth watching.


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