Opposition Gains Seats in Jordanian Election, Flaws Remain
Polls in Jordan closed at 8 p.m. yesterday and officials announced that 56.5 percent of the country’s 2.2 million eligible voters had cast a ballot. Before the election, predictions placed the turnout at 30 to 40 percent due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s boycott. Government spokesperson Samih Maaytah stated the high voter turnout ”represent[s] a success for the Jordanian people and a continuation of our march towards democracy.”
Early reports from Jordanian State TV claimed the majority of parliament’s 150 seats were won by independent candidates. Islamists and other government critics won about a quarter of the vote. The Brotherhood still rejected the election however, and member Hamza Mansour alleged “The polls were rigged.”
Despite these claims, the International Republican Institute (IRI) found improvements from previous elections with few objections. The IRI had election monitors in all 12 election districts and observed more than 175 polling stations. The delegation “found election officials to be well-trained and knowledgeable about their roles.” IRI also praised the Independent Election Commission’s handling of the process and commended them for hosting more than 150 international election observers in a manner consistent with the United Nations Declaration on International Election Observation.
The IRI recommended that “in future elections, Jordan should strengthen rules regulating the conduct of candidate agents inside and around polling centers,” and that ”enforcement of rules against Election Day campaigning outside polling centers must also be significantly improved upon, or the law amended, before the next election.”
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) also released its findings on the Jordanian elections, saying that while this election was an improvement on previous elections, “systematic distortions remain.” The report noted a number of technical improvements including “full cooperation with international observers,” and “improve[d] procedures for processing voters.” NDI had many criticisms of the election as well, including that “most observers reported active campaigning on the streets immediately outside polling places.”
Writing in the Fikra Forum, Mohamed Yaghi asks if the elections will end the protests, and says “the enormous effort [by the Jordanian government] to show that the opposition does not represent the Jordanians’ majority is a short-sighted strategy.”