Friday, February 08, 2013

"Elections" in Jordan

"Specific figures might help highlight what is at stake. The governorate of Amman is allotted twenty-five seats to represent its 2.4 million residents, approximating one parliamentarian for every ninety-six thousand people. Compare this to the representation allotted to the governorate of Balqaa, wherein ten seats represent 419,000 residents—approximating one parliamentarian for every forty-two thousand residents. Even more dramatic is the case of the governorate of Tafila, wherein four seats represent eighty-eight thousand residents—approximating one parliamentarian for every twenty-two thousand residents. Such discrepancies in the proportion of seat allotment to resident populations are staggering, representative of the lopsided and unbalanced representation across all twelve governorates, and highlight an intentional strategy to privilege the traditional social base of the regime at the expense of its primarily urban and middle-class based centers of opposition.
Finally, there is the issue of the single non-transferable voting system. Jordan is one of only three countries that have institutionalized such a system. Each voter casts one vote for one candidate in the district in which the voter is registered to vote. In combination with the winner-take-all election of allotted seats in each parliament, this system disincentivizes non-parochial vote casting—making it much more rational for voters to privilege candidates with similar familial or tribal affiliations than basing their selection criteria on political platforms and cross-communal voter mobilization. It thus reinforces the very dynamic that opposition groups have long sought to challenge: an electoral system that handicaps genuine political parties, and renders campaign politics more about narrow interests (that are easily facilitated by the regime) rather than national politics (such as political accountability, economic development, foreign policy).
Given such an institutional framework for the existing (regime-managed) electoral competition, there should be little surprise that the winners of the 2013 parliamentary elections were largely drawn from the groups that form the nucleus of the junior partners of the ruling coalition in Jordan: privileged tribes and families long-allied with the monarchy; select members of the business community that have been the primary beneficiaries of the unraveling of the state-centered economy; and a handful of career politicians that have perfected the art of winning SNTV-determined seats. While the participation of the IAF and other boycotting groups might have slightly altered this outcome, the above discussion should have made clear that there is a structural limit to how much opposition participation can alter this outcome—and the ways in which that limit falls far short of any meaningful foothold in the distribution of power within the Jordanian state." (thanks Bassam)