‘No party has the ability to amass the numbers that the tribe can’

1. Parties Elections
A man votes in the 2022 provincial and municipal elections in this undated photo. (File photo: Ameer Khalifeh)
AMMAN — An Independent Election Commission (IEC) examination of the results of this year’s provincial and municipal elections, and of the elections for the Greater Amman Municipality Council, shows that out of the 128 candidates, 39 identified themselves as members of a political party. اضافة اعلان

The results notwithstanding, opinions differ on whether the candidates’ social role and tribal affiliation played a greater role in their election than their party affiliation.

"Most votes were cast in accordance with the same rules; meaning for the same regional and tribal reasons," political analyst Oraib Al-Rantawi told Jordan News.

He added that partisan work has been severely damaged in recent decades, and that aversion to involvement in political parties, and politics in general, has grown.

The problem, according to Rantawi, is not the absence of political parties from the political scene, but rather a low voter turnout. This year, for example, only 29 percent of citizens voted, and 12 percent of those who did submitted blank votes to express their dissatisfaction with the elections and the candidates.

These figures, in his opinion, are the “bitter result of years of hollowing out and eroding political action in Jordan, weakening political elites and replacing them with social and technocratic elites who operate outside of social rules, resulting in a huge political vacuum” that the country has been complaining about for years.

Rantawi emphasized that the state's failure is not due to political parties alone, but also to the absence of politicians, since “Jordan's political class is fatigued, weak, and withdrawn, and does not renew in a serious and meaningful way”.

"Therefore, we witnessed a tiny number of party members participating in the municipal elections within the context of their partisan character, and the outcomes were tied to their social base rather than their party identification," he continued.

According to Rantawi, for parties to do their jobs effectively, they need a climate of political freedoms in which they, including those in opposition, can participate without fear of discrimination or targeting.

He claimed that the government sends contradictory messages in this area, that “while it speaks loudly about reform, there are still preemptive arrests, restrictions on different kinds of freedoms, and suspensions of media professionals”.

"The state must make decisions and choose which path it wishes to take," he said, stressing that Jordanians have a long history of political and partisan work that “can be restored in a systematic and organized manner”.

However, “real political will is required to open the public space to partisan participation and provide fertile ground for the development of an active and effective political and partisan life in Jordan,” Rantawi concluded.

According to political analyst Amer Al-Sabaileh partisan work takes time, that “there are developed frameworks, whether tribe, youth, or others, that have been influenced by the desires of particular parties”, yet “the party was not the primary reason for which candidates were elected to municipal seats".

Sabaileh added that there has been “an attempt to convert this societal energy into political action, with the party serving as the entry point”, adding that the shift from tribal representation to party representation “is a positive step, but it cannot be regarded as the result of a transformation in the parties ethos”.

While he does not believe that the path to political reform is difficult, he said that “there are still steps that need to be taken to ensure the long-term establishment of a political life with solid foundations”, which he defines as freedom of political action, guaranteed freedom of expression, and personal freedom zones, and that “the need now is to believe in the necessity of bringing about a cultural revolution”.

The overwhelming majority of candidates, according to Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front Party (IAF) Murad Al-Adaileh, does not rely on party identities during political campaigns, “but rather on its social base”.

According to Adaileh, the IAF had suspended its participation in previous municipal elections due to the absence of the right political environment. The most significant impediment to partisan work today, he believes, is the “security grasp on civilian life, which prevents a healthy political” life.

“People will naturally resort to organized work and party activity if there is a conducive atmosphere for political movement”, he said, adding that he does not see “any indication of a desire for reform in the foreseeable future”.

Secretary-General of the Jordanian Communist Party Fouad Dabour said that “it is common for parties to choose representatives from significant tribes and social groups, as this is the reality in Jordan”. "Although the party's role is important and cannot be denied, the tribe's role is more important in Jordan," he said.

No Jordanian party, said Dabour, has the ability to amass the numbers that the tribe can, and no party's organizational foundation has a large enough audience to compete with the social bases.

"Any election law, no matter how democratic, may be bypassed by tribe or political money," he said.

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