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Analysts cautiously welcome elections bill, parties dissatisfied

By Raed Omari - Feb 25,2016 - Last updated at Feb 25,2016

AMMAN — Political analysts on Wednesday cautiously welcomed the new parliamentary elections law as a step in the right direction.

For their part, however, political parties expressed dismay that the law lacks the closed proportional list at the national level, a key demand they have made sure to communicate to lawmakers, but to no avail.

On Tuesday, the Lower House passed the 2015 elections law based on an at-large voting system in which candidates can run for parliamentary elections on one large multi-member ticket at the district level.

In a telephone interview with The Jordan Times, Oraib Rentawi of Al Quds Centre for Political Studies said the new law is a "step forward but will not achieve a breakthrough towards the envisioned parliamentary governments".

"It is good that the new law completely buried the decades-long one-person, one-vote electoral system, but it will not bring a politicised Parliament capable of forming parliamentary governments," Rentawi said.

He added that the new law could have been better worded to enhance partisan action, explaining that both the government and the House have turned a deaf ear to political parties' and think tanks' recommendations.

"In general, abolishing the one-person, one-vote electoral system is a good achievement, but we are still moving very slowly on the path of reform."

Musa Shteiwi, director of the University of Jordan's Centre of Strategic Studies, praised the law as a "qualitative leap", also in comparison with previous elections laws. 

"The new law will definitely reshape the voter-candidate relationship this time based on programmes and not on personal and tribal considerations," Shteiwi told The Jordan Times.

"Of course, the law still has some flaws here and there and could have been in a lot better shape, but it has also many shining elements on which much can be built, mainly the abolishment of the  one-person, one-vote system."

Shteiwi further explained that the new elections law will have its contributions to achieving political reforms aided by the new constitutional amendments, and side by side with other reform-oriented laws.

“In brief, the law is a good step in the right direction.”

In an opinion piece, Ad Dustour’s columnist Omar Kullab said that the law has many positive aspects that could be a starting point towards full-fledged reforms.

“The fact that the entire region is busy with fighting and unrest and we in Jordan are endorsing a reform-oriented law and preparing ourselves for elections is itself something very positive,” Kullab said.

He also said that the bill puts demography and geography in the service of democracy and not the other way around, calling on candidates to diversify and colour their lists according to political and not tribal and regional affiliations. 

In statements they published following the House’s endorsement of the bill, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and the Jordanian Unified Front Party (JUF) expressed dissatisfaction with the version adopted by MPs, citing primarily the absence of a proportional list at the national level.

The IAF, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, and the JUF, both right wingers, also regretted the House’s disregard of political parties’ demands and suggestions they submitted to lawmakers over “hundreds of meetings and brainstorming sessions”.

They also stressed the importance of revisiting the elections bill so that the multi-member lists are only formed by political parties, citing its significance in bringing to the House lawmakers elected on the basis of platforms and genuine political thought.

 

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has previously emphasised that the closed proportional list at the national level was removed from the new law because “it was ruled as unconstitutional by the Higher Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution”. which was replaced by the Constitutional Court. 

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