Activists reject draft regulation on partisan activities

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Students roam the campus of the University of Jordan. (Photo: JNews)

AMMAN — Political activists expressed their discontent with a draft regulation which organizes the practice of partisan activities in higher education institutions.اضافة اعلان

The regulation, which is expected to be announced in the next few weeks after it is endorsed by a higher education council and the Cabinet, is part of the Political Parties Law enacted last March.

The regulation and the Law are in line with His Majesty King Abdullah’s quest for a strong multiparty system in Jordan.

Currently, there are 34 weak and scattered political parties in Jordan. Aside from the largest and most organized Islamic Action Front Party, the political arm of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood Movement, none of the rest has political clout. In fact, many of those groups lack organization and clear-cut political platforms.

King Abdullah said he advocated, like in civilized societies, the emergence of three main political groupings, espousing different ideologies from the far-right to the left.

Under the King’s longstanding plan for political reforms, Jordan’s prime minister will be elected from a parliamentary majority, instead of the current practice of being appointed by a Royal Decree.

But some political activists said they regarded the regulation as restrictive to a free and unsupervised political activism at Jordanian universities.

Fakher Al-Daas, a coordinator for the National Campaign for Student Rights “Dabahtoona”, said the “regulation failed to achieve the desired goal, which is the involvement of young people in partisan work.”

“It simply transformed a university’s dean of student affairs into an administrative governor with absolute powers to allow, or ban any partisan activity,” Daas told Jordan News.

“The Dean’s office can even interfere in the details of the activity and amend it in terms of place, time and names of the youth participating in the activity,” he added.

The draft stipulates that university students will not be prosecuted for their partisan affiliations, or on-campus political activism.

But the regulation requires student activists to submit a request to establish partisan activity to the deanship of student affairs at universities across Jordan, at least one week in advance.

The Higher Education Institution is obligated to respond to the request to establish partisan activity within a maximum period of three business days from the date of submitting the request.

The Dean’s office, by the same token, will supervise the students’ practice of partisan activities inside the university campus, in accordance with the legislation in force.

On the other hand, the draft insists that university students who join political parties can engage in partisan activities within the campuses of their higher education institutions “without any infringement of their rights”, as a bylaw will be issued to regulate such activities.

Fouad Dabbour, a secretary-general of the Arab Baath Progressive Party, said that the “draft gave students their legitimate right to join parties without any accountability, and also gave special attention to the role of women to encourage their participation in politics”.

But he asserted that his party rejected the Political Parties Law. “We, as a party, are not satisfied with it, and we have many comments on the system in general,” he said. “We believe it will be a real impediment to the progress of party work in Jordan.”

He specifically referred to parts of the law, which stipulate that, the founding members of political parties should not be less than 1,000. Of the total, at least 10 percent of the membership must be allotted to women and young people, aged between 18 and 35 years old.

The law also requires that political parties increase the percentage of women and young people’s membership to at least 20 percent within three years after their inception.

“This is illogical and difficult to be implemented on the ground,” he told Jordan News.

Alaa Hijjih, a student and political activist, said that “university regulations in general limit students’ participation in political work.”

“There is no text there, which requires the formation of student unions, and the universities that do form such unions are very few,” he said. “Besides, there is only a limited number of students who are involved in party work.”

He said that the draft “does not meet the needs, and will not achieve the desired goal of integrating students into party life.”

“It grants a great of power to the deanship of student affairs by approving any student activity,” he said. “It restricts party work to holding activities only, and this is also restrained under designated conditions.”

“We need real steps and comprehensive amendments that contribute to erasing the dark image which harms partisan work, which has been attacked by many and for so long,” he said. He also pointed to “fear” being spread “among students and their families to discourage them from engaging in partisan work.”

He said that many of his colleagues “had been summoned for investigation by university committees as a result of their involvement in student movements and on-campus activities.”

Mohammad Wassef, a spokesperson for the University of Jordan, said his institution “is fully convinced that it is not only education that makes a mature generation capable of advancing in the society, but rather the involvement of young people in extracurricular activities, including political thought.”

“We realize the importance of this matter, and we have to apply it on the ground and open the horizon for young people to understand the meaning of party life to increase their degree of confidence in engaging in it and be integrated into the political scene,” Wassef told Jordan News.

“We fully support political activism, but what matters the most for us is that everyone should remember that the homeland was and will remain above all,” he asserted.

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