Last updated: 24 January, 2013

Tribal interests hit Jordanian poll

Two US organisations that observed this week’s Jordanian general election said Thursday that local loyalties were hindering prospects for developing truly national politicians, challenging King Abdullah II’s plans for parliamentary government.

“The unequal size of districts and an electoral system that amplifies family, tribal and national cleavages limit the development of a truly national legislative body and challenge the king’s stated aim of encouraging ‘full parliamentary government’,” said the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

In particular, the “elections are a series of profoundly local contests where candidates are elected as service providers and representatives of parochial interests, rather than national legislators able to hold the executive branch to account or propose laws,” the NDI statement said.

The king will need to work to “unite individuals and groups in pursuit of national policies and agendas and encourage the formation of like-minded coalitions,” if he is to involve parliament in naming a prime minister.

But the NDI, which deployed 50 election observers from 29 countries, said the vote “saw a marked improvement in procedures and administration from past polls.”

The International Republican Institute called Wednesday’s election “an important step toward building voters’ trust in election administration.”

But it noted that “the electoral framework continues to fall short,” saying “tribal allegiances continue to be the major factor in candidate selection and campaigning, with personality trumping platforms.”

It also said it heard “numerous allegations of vote buying on election day that were not limited to one region.”

Initial results showed that tribal leaders, an assortment of pro-regime figures and independent businessmen were sweeping the election, dashing hopes for real political reform.

The palace said the king had told observers that the election, “which was successful, shows that Jordanians want to be part of decision making at a new stage that will witness parliamentary government.”

In the new lower house, “parliamentary blocs will be formed and consultations with the assembly will start to pick a prime minister and form parliamentary government,” the palace added.

The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the election, saying the monarch’s measures fall far short of true democratic change and that he should not have any say at all in naming a prime minister.