Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Parliamentary Elections in Jordan See Return of Islamists, Unseat Heavyweights

Jordanians are voting for a new parliament in Amman, Jordan, 20 September 2016. Photo Raad Adayleh

Nearly 1.5 million Jordanians voted on 20 September 2016 to elect their representatives in the 18th parliament.

The results, overseen by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC), revealed some surprises. Under a new list-based system designed to encourage political parties rather than independents, several heavyweights who had been fixtures on Jordan’s political scene for decades were unable to keep their seats.

The vote also brought back the Islamic Action Front (IAF), which boycotted the 2010 and 2013 elections in protest against the previous one-person, one-vote system.

The majority of the seats were won by tribal representatives, who are usually considered to be pro-government. The Islamic Centrist Party, also pro-government, and Zamzam both won five seats.

Zamzam was originally affiliated with IAF and the Muslim Brotherhood, but defected over differences related to severing ties with the movement in Egypt.

The IAF, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, gained ten seats in the 130-seat House and helped five of their allies, including non-Islamists, to make it into the lower chamber. Nine political parties won 30 seats.

The IAF formed 20 lists running under the al-Islah bloc, or the National Coalition for Reform, by attracting key figures to run with them. These included pan-Arab nationalist Saleh Armouti, leftist Mansour Murad and Christian community leader Odeh Kawas.

Coalition president Abdullah Akaileh, a former minister who won a seat in Amman’s Second District, said at a press conference in the capital on 24 September 2016 that the National Coalition for Reform will compete for the Lower House speakership by forming a parliamentary bloc with other MPs.

Asked if the coalition were to be given the chance to form a government, he said it would develop a clear programme for reform and development.

Heavyweights unseated

The elections saw the defeat of several candidates and former MPs considered heavyweights, mainly due to their political longevity.

These included former MPs Mahmoud Kharabsheh of Balqa, Amjad Maslamani of Amman’s Third District, Mufleh Rheimi of Jerash and Saad Hayel Srour of the Northern Badia.

Srour, a former minister, was previously a speaker of the Lower House.

However, some veteran lawmakers, such as Abdul Karim Doghmi (Mafraq), Yahya Saud (Amman’s Second District) and Ahmad Safadi (Amman’s Third District), were able to return to Abdali, the district of Amman where parliament is located.

New faces

A total of 74 first-time MPs were elected and 56 former lawmakers returned to the Dome.

Among the latter, 39 kept their seats from the previous parliament and 17 had held seats in previous legislatures.

Women MPs represent 15 per cent of the House. With 20 female MPs, five more than the 15-seat quota, the new Lower House will have the highest number of women in parliament’s history.

Fair elections

In remarks to Fanack, commentators described the elections as transparent, crediting the IEC measures, which included smooth voter registration, and allowing observers and media representatives to monitor voting and counting freely.

Even Islamists, who usually express scepticism at the government’s decisions and measures, said they were satisfied with the elections’ integrity.

IAF Secretary General Mohammad Zyoud, speaking at the same press conference on 24 September 2016, said the party was relieved about the results, but said there were isolated reports of irregularities.

According to IEC spokesperson Khaled Kalaldeh, the commission had been notified of vote buying, but it was difficult to prove the allegations since they often took place out of sight.

At a press conference to announce the results on 21 September 2016, Kalaldeh said that the elections had gone well, adding that 56 violations were referred to the prosecutor general, while 29 election officials were dismissed or replaced for various reasons relating to reservations by observers and the media.

Speaking to Fanack on 23 September 2016, Majed al-Amir, a journalist for the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai, said the IEC administered the elections professionally and with integrity.

The recent elections, he said, would restore voters’ confidence in the electoral system, which had in the past been marred by allegations of fraud and a belief that it was not truly representative.

Amer Bani Amer, director general of the Civil Coalition for Monitoring the Jordanian Parliamentary Elections (Rasid), said the entire election process was transparent, adding that the violations recorded were not related to the commission but committed by candidates and their supporters. He was referring to vote buying.

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