Jordan parliamentary elections due for Nov. 10

A Jordanian woman casts her ballot at a polling station for local and municipal elections in Amman, Jordan. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 29 July 2020

Jordan parliamentary elections due for Nov. 10

  • Jordan parliamentary elections will likely take place on Nov. 10

AMMAN: Jordan is moving to hold elections for the House of Representatives, according to a Royal Court statement issued on Wednesday.

Ali Khawaldeh, director-general of the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs, told Arab News the elections will likely take place on Nov. 10. The Independent Election Commission is expected to recommend a date for the elections in the coming days.

Amer Bani Amer, director-general of Rased, a Jordanian NGO that monitors elections and government activities, told Arab News the current political atmosphere is ripe for a different kind of parliament.

“The robust governmental anti-corruption activities, as well as effective anti-COVID-19 policies, mean that Jordanians are likely to elect a different kind of parliament,” he said.

Amer said the effectiveness and success of a younger parliament will encourage the majority of Jordanians, who are young, to vote for younger candidates.

Samar Muhareb, CEO of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development Society, told Arab News that events in Jordan make her pessimistic about the state of democracy in the country.

“Democracy is not only elections, it is the rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly, separation of powers, and an independent judiciary and robust civil society. The crackdown on the teachers’ union, and the absence of freedom of unions and expression doesn’t bode well for democratic change,” Muhareb said.

She expressed concern that money will continue to play a role in elections, with the wealthy entering parliament regardless of their abilities. Muhareb added that the role of civil society in Jordan needs to be evaluated.

“They make a cosmetic intervention at the time of elections without real involvement in building a democratic and inclusive society that is ready to make real change,” she said.

Rami Adwan, who promotes political participation among women and youth, told Arab News that many young political activists think the space for civil society is narrowing.

“At present I am not optimistic that elections could produce a different parliament unless the youth realize that they must act to change those who will be in charge of setting their future,” he said.

Musa Shteiwi, a professor of sociology at Jordan University, told Arab News that the decision to hold elections on time is important.

“The decision of His Majesty to hold elections on time sends a positive message internally and externally that Jordan is stable,” he said. He added that despite the Independent Election Commission restoring trust to the electoral process, Jordan’s weak party system means a strong parliament is unlikely.

Layla Nafaa, a veteran women’s rights activist, told Arab News that efforts to increase the women’s quota from 12 to 17 percent have failed.

“Our only hope for more women in parliament now is for more women to run for office and for women and men to be more involved in the electoral process and choose women, rather than follow tradition and other reasons to choose men,” she said.


Is France helping Lebanon, or trying to reconquer it?

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a press conference in Beirut on Thursday, two days after a massive explosion devastated the Lebanese capital. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2020

Is France helping Lebanon, or trying to reconquer it?

  • A surprising online petition emerged this week asking France to temporarily restore its mandate, saying Lebanon’s leaders have shown “total inability to secure and manage the country”

PARIS: It was almost as if Emmanuel Macron forgot that Lebanon is no longer a French protectorate.
Visiting explosion-ravaged Beirut this week, France’s leader comforted distraught crowds, promised to rebuild the city and claimed that the blast pierced France’s own heart. “France will never let Lebanon go,” Macron said. “The heart of the French people still beats to the pulse of Beirut.”
His critics denounced the overtures as a neocolonialist foray by a European leader seeking to restore sway over a troubled Middle Eastern land — and distract from mounting problems at home. A meme circulating online dubbed him Macron Bonaparte, a 21st century Emperor Napoleon.
But Macron’s defenders — including desperate Beirut residents who called him “our only hope” — praised him for visiting gutted neighborhoods where Lebanese leaders fear to tread, and for trying to hold Lebanon’s politicians accountable for the corruption and mismanagement blamed for Tuesday’s deadly blast.
Macron’s visit exposed France’s central challenge as it prepares to host an international donors conference for Lebanon on Sunday: How to help a country in crisis, where French economic ties run deep, without interfering in its internal affairs.
“We are walking on the edge of a precipice. We have to aid, support and encourage the Lebanese people, but at the same time not give the impression that we want to establish a new protectorate, which would be completely stupid,” said Jack Lang, a former French government minister who now heads the Arab World Institute in Paris. “We must find new, intelligent solutions to aid the Lebanese.”
France’s ties with Lebanon reach back at least to the 16th century, when the French monarchy negotiated with Ottoman rulers to protect Christians — and secure influence — in the region. By the time of the 1920-1946 French mandate, Lebanon already had a network of French schools and French speakers that survives to this day — along with France’s cozy relationships with Lebanon’s power brokers, including some accused of fueling its political and economic crisis.

HIGHLIGHT

Macron’s defenders — including desperate Beirut residents who called him ‘our only hope’ — praised him for visiting gutted neighborhoods where Lebanese leaders fear to tread

A surprising online petition emerged this week asking France to temporarily restore its mandate, saying Lebanon’s leaders have shown “total inability to secure and manage the country.”
It is widely seen as an absurd idea — Macron himself told Beirut residents on Wednesday that “it’s up to you to write your history” — but 60,000 people have signed it, including members of France’s 250,000-strong Lebanese diaspora and people in Lebanon who said it is a way to express their desperation and distrust of the political class.
Aside from a show of much-needed international support, many in Lebanon viewed Macron’s visit as a way to secure financial assistance for a country wracked with debt.
The French leader also managed to bring the divided political class together, if briefly. In a rare scene, the heads of Lebanon’s political factions — some of them still bitter enemies from the 1975-1990 civil war — appeared together at the Palais des Pins, the French Embassy headquarters in Beirut, and filed out after meeting Macron.
But to many, the visit was seen as patronizing. Some lashed out at the petition and those celebrating “France, the tender mother.”
One writer, Samer Frangieh, said Macron gathered the politicians as “schoolchildren,” reprimanding them for failing to carry out their duties.
There were other, more subtle jabs against France’s show of influence. While Macron was touring neighborhoods torn apart by the explosion, the health minister in the Hezbollah-backed government toured field hospitals donated by Iran and Russia, major power players in the region.
“I get the people who want the mandate. They have no hope,” said Leah, an engineering student in Beirut who did not want her last name published out of concern for political repercussions. She spoke out strongly against the idea, and against those who see Macron as Lebanon’s “savior.”
She said that risks worsening Lebanon’s divisions, as Maronite Christians and French-educated Muslims embrace Macron while others lean away. “He hasn’t resolved his issues with his country, with his people. How is he giving advice to us?” she asked.
In Paris, Macron’s domestic political opponents from the far left to the far right warned the centrist leader against creeping neocolonialism, and extracting political concessions from Lebanon in exchange for aid. “Solidarity with Lebanon should be unconditional,” tweeted Julien Bayou, head of the popular Greens party.
Macron himself firmly rejected the idea of reviving the French mandate.
“You can’t ask me to substitute for your leaders. It’s not possible,” he said. “There is no French solution.”
But he made a point of noting that he plans to return to Lebanon to verify that promised reforms are being undertaken on Sept. 1, the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Greater Lebanon — and the beginning of French rule.