Call for electing Amman mayor resurfaces as country heads towards reforms

National human rights center suggests legislative amendments that lead to more democratic norms

In this file photo, a woman casts her ballot in the election of Amman Municipality Council members in 2017 polls. (Photo: Jordan News)
In this file photo, a woman casts her ballot in the election of Amman Municipality Council members in 2017 polls. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The mayor of Amman is appointed, formally by His Majesty the King. But in the midst of a flurry of initiatives meant to achieve political reform, activists are leading an appeal to transition to democratically elect the person for this position.اضافة اعلان

The National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) presented observations on the "Greater Amman Municipality Draft Law for the year 2020" and an additional draft law for the decentralization of municipalities during the participation of a team of the center's board of trustees in the meeting of a joint parliamentary committee discussing the said pieces of legislation.

As over half of the Jordanian population is concentrated in the capital, the NCHR "called for subjecting the Greater Amman Municipality to the law regulating local administration in Jordan, and demanded — based on the principle of constitutional equality embodied in Article (6) of the Jordanian Constitution — to grant citizens residing in the capital the right to choose Amman’s mayor on an equal basis with other citizens."

The basis of this appeal is to move towards a neutral position between centralized and decentralized municipalities. Citizens have the autonomy to elect the Lower House of Parliament as well as 97 of the 100 mayors in the Kingdom. The mayors of the remaining three strongholds, Petra, Aqaba, and the capital, Amman, are appointed by the Cabinet based on the recommendations of the prime minister.

"The conversation over municipal elections in Amman came about during the discussion. It was not present in the proposal we presented. We were proposing the paper on the laws of municipalities in general, not the laws of Greater Amman,” said Commissioner-General of the NCHR Alaa Al-Din Al-Armouti, in remarks to Jordan News.

When the discussion veered towards Amman, Armouti reiterated that his position that was Amman should hold democratic elections.

"We believe there needs to be an election for Amman because there needs to be equality among all the municipalities in the country,” he said. “All the municipalities hold elections and their mayors are elected, but for Amman, the mayor is appointed. We don't see a reason why the citizens of Amman shouldn't be able to elect their mayor."

Mamdouh Al-Abbadi, a former mayor and several-time minister, told Jordan News that he "hoped that there would be an election of the mayor of Amman and all the members of the Council…In our belief, the appointment phase has ended. Our experience has matured and we have gone through many stages; it must lead us to this natural result of 'elections' like many other countries in the world."

"His Majesty the King, in the fifth Discussion Paper, said that we have to put our efforts to complete all elements of a democratic transition. This is a very important thing,” he went on.

The NCHR made additional amendments to the draft law, stipulating that it can determine the number of the [governorate] council members for each governorate and not leave that to be determined by a bylaw issued by the Cabinet. This amendment means that the provincial council is given greater, clearly-defined powers that it can exercise voluntarily, without being subject to the will and directives of the central authority, especially concerning local affairs.

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