AMMAN: Jordanians went to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new house of representatives and ended up bringing in 100 new members to the 130-strong 19th parliament since Jordan was established.
Despite a dangerous spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, 1.38 million Jordanians went to the polls, producing a 29.9 percent turnout. This was a big drop from the 2016 elections where the turnout rate was 36.8 percent.
The elections proved fatal to a variety of political and ideological groups. Left-wing and progressive lists, as well as all nationalists, lost in the elections. Eight of the 15 candidates from the Islamic Action Front lost seats. Of all the other 41 candidates belonging to parties, non were able to muster a single seat.
According to Amer Bani Amer, head of the Rased Al-Hayyat Center, which monitored the elections, only 30 members out of 130 won reelection. He said that it is difficult to ascertain if the low turnout in the elections and the absence of political parties means that Jordan has retracted in its pursuit of democratic reform.
“It is too early to tell if this has caused progress or retraction for democracy. The results show that many well-known leaders, including experienced parliamentarians, will not return. Many new members will come in, and this means we will enter unknown territory,” he told Arab News.
Newly appointed Senator Mustafa Hamarneh told Arab News that the current elections will not make any change in the effort for political reform in Jordan. “We are at a standstill. The current situation is a catch-22: It provides for political empowerment, but without active parties and realistic programs that will give people a choice, we will not move ahead.”
In addition to the decrease in political and ideological leaders, women in the 19th parliament also suffered major losses. While the 18th parliament saw five women win over the 15 seats guaranteed for women, the current elections show no women winning any seats outside the quota.
Unlike previous years in which the percentage of women voting was higher than that of men, this election saw 34.1 percent male voters compared to 26.1 percent female voters.
Layla Naffa, executive director of the Arab Women’s Organization, told Arab News that usually when the voting is tribal more women participate as a result of family pressure by their male relatives. “This time, the pandemic was the predominant reason why fewer women voted.”
Jordanian women leaders also pointed to the government’s call for a four-day lockdown on the day after elections as the main cause for the absence of female voters and winning parliamentarians. Wafa Bani Mustafa, a former member of the parliament and now head of Arab Women Parliamentarians Against Gender-Based Violence, told Arab News that “women were busy taking care of the elders in the family while men went out and voted.”