POMED Notes: “After the Jordanian Elections: Challenges Ahead for the Hashemite Kingdom.”
On February 1, 2013 the Middle East Institute hosted an event titled “After the Jordanian Elections: Challenges Ahead for the Hashemite Kingdom.” The speakers were Leslie Campbell, senior associate and regional director for the Middle East at the National Democratic Institute, and Danya Greenfield, deputy director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. Both speakers monitored the Jordanian parliamentary elections on January 23rd. The event was moderated by Middle East Institute Vice President Kate Seelye.
For full event notes continue reading, or click here for the PDF.
Leslie Campbell began his remarks by saying that before the election, King Abdullah had three objectives. Number one was to run elections better than before, two was to have a large turnout, and three was to create a real sense that Jordan was changing. Campbell argues that the king won two out of three as the elections were free and fair and many more people turned out than expected, proving a failure of the Islamic Action Front’s boycott.
Campbell noted many improvements in the election from previous years. Mainly, the creation of the Independent Election Commission, the use of pre-printed ballots, the assignment of voters to specific polling stations, and the improved procedures for voting and posting results. Some shortcomings he noted were the unequal size of districts and overall the flawed electoral system where tribes are over-represented Campbell sees the new parliament as a group of 150 individuals as opposed to a parliament with defined parties and blocs. He noted that it will be difficult for the king to follow through with his promise of picking a prime minister in consultation with parliament’s majority bloc, as there is no majority bloc. After the election Campbell spoke with some members of parliament who said government intelligence agents were interfering with their preliminary meetings.
Danya Greenfield agreed completely with Campbell’s assessment. She listed a few take-aways from her experience as an election monitor: tribal loyalties still dominate the electoral process, there is apathy about the parliament, politics and polls are quite prevalent, the opposition calls for a boycott largely failed, and Jordan’s political parties lack big political constituencies and are largely irrelevant.
Greenfield said it was obvious the effect regional events were having in Jordan. Almost everyone she spoke with in the country expressed fear of a violent spillover from Syria and realized things in Jordan weren’t bad in comparison. She believes this has bought King Abdullah some time to delay significant reforms, but that this fear will not last indefinitely. In the coming months, Greenfield believes that the selection of a prime minister will be a critical moment for the king to demonstrate sincerity, and that Jordan’s increasing economic pressures will “probably get worse.”