Despite Boycotts, Elections Underway in Jordan

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Parliamentary elections have begun in Jordan, amid reports of procedural irregularities and boycotts on the part of opposition forces, Tamer al-Samadi reports. 

Jordan’s parliamentary elections marathon began on Dec. 23 with massive advertising campaigns and the approval of candidates names and lists of those standing for the upcoming political process scheduled for Jan. 23, 2013.

The election commission overseeing the parliamentary elections announced that they had approved the candidacy of 31 lists — which will compete for 27 out of 150 seats in the future parliament — and added that up unti Dec. 23, they had received about 503 applications for individual seats. There are 108 individual seats, with a quota of 15 seats for women and three for candidates from Bedouin districts.

Candidates for individual and list seats mostly came from political movements close to the regime, along with centrists. The candidacy of one list of four leftist opposition parties, which won one seat in the 2001 elections, was approved.

The Islamic Action Front — the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm — the leftist Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party, the Jordanian Communist Party, the centrist National Constitutional party, and popular and youth movements — which emerged as a consequence of the the Arab spring two years ago — have boycotted the elections.

In parallel, electoral campaigns ran rapidly in the early morning hours yesterday in the capital of Amman and various governorates. Participants competed to show off pictures of their candidates.Graphic editing software such as Photoshop was used extensively, creating smiles and promises. These pictures covered squares and other public places in the capital, causing a stifling traffic jam at noon and unprecedented congestion on pedestrian bridges.

The majority of candidates in the capital electoral district used slogans free of any political statements, and focused on calls for public services linked to living conditions. The heated electoral propaganda showed off the campaign managers fevered and quick moves, as they began a hectic race to lay claim to vital places and hang up embellished and expensive photos of their candidates.

It is to be noted that pictures and banners depicting the candidates are the most widespread in the Fourth Circle district near the government’s headquarters. This area has witnessed opposition protests and demonstrations that have escalated over the past few months.

The process of hanging up pictures of candidates was not free of electoral violence. There were reports of a dispute between different candidates’ supporters yesterday morning — as they were racing to lay claim to places that they saw as important for hanging pictures of their candidates, according to an official from the election commission. However, some candidates preferred to communicate with voters by using modern technology and have begun to run their campaign on Facebook and Twitter, along with the use of blogs and SMS messages.

Apart from the ad campaigning, the Civil Coalition for Monitoring the 2012 Jordanian Parliamentary Elections (RASID) revealed some irregularities in the registration process for lists and candidates. They called for the nullification of the commission’s results regarding representatives from a number of lists. RASID complained about poor equipment, a lack of clarity in the instructions, and some registration departments failing to fully complete filling out documents.

RASID said in a statement that “some candidates insulted and verbally abused coalition members for adhering to the registration process, while certain candidates fired weaponry, celebrating their registration as candidates.” The statement added, “We observed the presence of security representatives in civilian clothing in some registration offices, where some of them tried to get electoral information about the registration process, particularly in the districts of Mafraq, Ramtha, Zarqa, Tafilah, Madaba and northern Badiya.” The statement recommended that it is necessary for “the government to ensure a safe registration process without any interference from any security party in any way.”

The government described the candidacy process and electoral ad campaigns as “a practical response to all the attempts that question the success of the electoral process.” Minister and government spokesman Samih Maaytah told Al-Hayat that “the elections confirm that Jordanians are choosing participation [as opposed to boycotting] and seek to reform through constitutional institutions. We — as a government — reaffirm our determination to ensure the success of the democratic “wedding” without any irregularities.

He added that “the integrity of the elections is a national necessity to repair the relationship between the citizens and the authorities and to promote the importance of parliamentary work.” However, the Muslim Brotherhood’s second man in command Zaki Bani Ersheid, described the beginning of the electoral campaigns as “heresy that will not stop the people from demanding their rights.” In a statement that was posted on the Brotherhood’s official website he said: “Did you know that all regimes approaching collapse have pretended to be democratic, held regular elections and called for human rights?”

Found in: jordanian election law, election boycott, election
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