Jordan: Political Money Threatens Integrity of Elections

Jordanian officials are saying that money is influencing the electoral process, reports Tamer Samadi.

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jordanian parliament, jordanian independent election commission, jordanian election law

Jan 7, 2013

Officials and observers of the Jordanian elections have admitted that political money has been used to influence the electoral process leading up to elections scheduled for Jan. 23. According to them, if the phenomenon continues, the future of parliamentary elections would be endangered, its integrity would be called into question and official promises of reform and combating corruption would be in “an unenviable position.”

They also talked about the major role of money in forming big electoral lists and buying votes, particularly in poor provinces, where a tribal social structure prevails and marginalized Palestinian refugees living in camps are allowed to vote as citizens of Jordan.

A senior Jordanian official told Al-Hayat that candidates and their supporters have seized voting cards from large numbers of citizens in different areas and cities, in exchange for a specific sum of money. He explained that “the use of political money in the elections places the state in big trouble, if the issue is not seriously addressed.”

Abdul Ilah Khatib, a close associate of the head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and prominent engineer of the upcoming political process, expressed his displeasure at the spread of political money and explicitly threatened to withdraw from overseeing elections on the polling day in an official and unannounced session, if the executive authorities, particularly security authorities, do not put an end to some of the candidates’ violations. Some told Al-Hayat that Khatib, who prefers to stay away from the media, “has attentively observed prominent figures [use] of political money and submitted a list of those accused of buying votes and taking advantages of the voters’ need for security authorities.”

These threats have coincided with similar indications from the royal palace, as Jordanian King Abdullah II warned prominent figures about political money. He stressed in a closed consultative meeting a few days ago that “there will be no possibility of tampering with or falsifying the voters’ will this time," in a clear reference to official breaches in the previous electoral process, which the government has acknowledged.

The IEC dealt with a number of issues related to political money in the past few days, most notably the seizure of thousands of voting cards by a candidate in exchange for a specific amount of money, and the arrest of a woman, after large quantities of voting cards and IDs were found in her possession in the city of Salt, neighboring Amman. IEC spokesman Hussein Bani Hani said that “the IEC filed complaints accompanied with documents and data proving that corrupt money is pumped in the electoral process to the judiciary.” Security sources confirmed that teams from the proactive security department were formed to prosecute crimes of political money and buying votes.

On the other hand, high-level official sources said that the Jordanian judiciary gave former chairman of the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company Walid Kurdi 10 days to turn himself in to the authorities, or face trial in absentia on charges of corruption. It was learned that the judicial quarters seek to set up a special court to hold an investigation with Kurdi, who is the husband of Basma bint Talal, King Abdullah’s aunt. Weekly sessions will be held to try him, similar to the trial of former Intelligence Director Mohamad Elzahabi, who is also accused of corruption and abusing his position.

Jordan asked the International Police a few days ago to extradite Kurdi from London, after he was officially accused of corruption. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office issued an accusatory decision against Kurdi, and included corruption charges concerning hundreds of millions of Jordanian dinars (JD) under his chairmanship of the company, with a capital of 75 million JD for 2007–2012. The office also issued a decision to seize the movable and immovable property of Kurdi.

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