Jordanian Elections and why I won’t participate

Here is why I will skip the Jordanian Election 2020

The Palestinian population of Jordan has for the longest while seemed to integrate and assimilate in the Jordanian society. However, a look in the present working of the governmental apparatus shows that there is still a scare. We recently saw more and more ministers from Palestinian background. The Jordanian Elections, its laws and the Parliament it produces are still not representative enough.

Registered refugees of Palestinian origin in Jordan are different to almost any other country in the Middle East. Most of the refugees are in fact Jordanian nationals and Jordanian citizens. The figure varies between 80-95% depending on your definition of refugee.

Most of Palestinian refugees in Jordan have Jordanian nationalities
UNRWA figures on Palestinian Refugees holding Jordanian Nationality

The Jordanian Parliamentary Elections are announced for November 10th. The Jordanian streets are getting filled with propaganda and campaign slogans for the elections. However, nothing much has changed over the past two elections. In fact the electoral law that was passed to arguably encourage parties and political development has failed.

We are yet to see a centrist or left-leaning party gain any sizable gains. Right wing parties are continuously being challenged and harassed. At least according to the literature on the material. Therefore, tribalism and voting on ethnic and other backgrounds is as rampant as it ever was, if not more.

36% of eligible voters in 2016 actually cast their votes if we are to follow the Independent Election Commission figures. However, that is not the main story I want to write about.

Under-representation for some

In Amman and Zarqa, the two cities with the largest population, the voter turnout reached 23.1% and 25.0% respectively. Amman and Zarqa hold more than 50% of the eligible voters, however, they hold only 30% of the seat of parliament. Alone, that doesn’t look so bad.

However, look at this, a Jordanian citizen residing in Tafila, has 4 times more representation in Parliament than a citizen in Amman. Almost the same applies to a Jordanian from Ma’an as compared to Zarqa

Amman residents (Ammanis) and Zarqa residents are under-represented in the elections
Tafila residents has 4 times as much representation than Amman Residents

I am under-represented and disenfranchised in the elections. The political machinery in the regime seems to be glad of the status quo. Therefore, I will continue to not show up on election day in order to keep Amman figures low.

This is a conscious decision on my part. Many of my countrymen have a feeling that their vote matters little especially when the Independent Election Commission head lets us know that 80 members of Parliament in the 2007 elections were “appointed”. Many of those were still members of Parliament until recently, and running for elections in the 2020 elections.

Gerrymandering in Jordanian Elections

Election Gerrymandering is not new in Jordan; the residents of Amman -many of them hailing from ethnic Palestinian origins- have found themselves fighting tribal loyalties in the capital. That’s why the major refugee camps in Amman have been distributed among the five (previously seven) districts

While for example in Balqa’a Governorate, there are around 300,000 eligible voters, the gerrymandered governorate did not see it fit to divide that governorate.

In order to keep the Palestinian population from overwhelming the district that include the Baqa’a refugee Camp. This will happen if, for example, Balqa’a was split into two districts in keeping with the average of around 180 thousand eligible voters per district.

The official count of camp residents is around 100 thousand, however, the surrounding area (not included in the official estimates) could include 150-200 thousand more people of Palestinian origin

Electoral Districts in Jordan, Comparing Irbid to Balqa'a
Balqa has one of the highest eligible voters per district counts in Jordan, many believe it is because of the heavy Palestinian-Jordanian residents in Baqa’a camp and the surrounding area

Irbid, to contrast, has been split into 4 districts and has an around average district size.

Tribal zoning and its effect on Jordanian Elections

Jordan has one of the only Election systems that allows people to actually vote not based on the place were they reside, but where their family names has historically lived.

We have three Bedouin Areas (North, Center and South) and they are overrepresented as well. 2.8 times more represented than Amman and have a voter turnout of more than 72%.

Amman and Zarqa as compared to the Bedouin Areas
Mixed Cities (Amman and Zarqa) as compared to the three Bedouin Areas

Of course voter turnout can be explained by the willingness to be in that area’s lists. Meaning a resident of Amman wanting to vote in the Southern Bedouin Area, will most probably put the effort to transfer his vote. However, if that citizen did not intend to vote he would just stay at the logs of Amman.

However, maintaining the tribal system in 2020, means that the tribal elections that occur still have more influence on the Parliament than the parties and agendas I have seen in Jordan.

Finally

It is important to engage the widest possible percentage of voters in the Jordanian Elections in order to pave the way for agendas and programs to surface, hopefully, parties and progress that is not tied to individuals.

In our individualist society, that is urgently needed. However, until I see an election law that squares me as an equal citizen of this country I will continue to pass on the Jordanian Elections and spend the election day holiday at home.

Peace, out!

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Author: Radi Radi

Taxpayer | Husband|Father| Flying enthusiast| LFC fan|MRI|AMRMetS |Lefty|AvMP | View all posts by Radi Radi

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