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To a new electoral law?

Jan 27,2014 - Last updated at Jan 27,2014

Implicit in the statements made by some senior members of the Cabinet is that the government feels that it is just about time a new electoral law should be enacted.

It is early to celebrate, though. Such statements should not be taken at face value, as the decision to change the electoral law entails the approval of other centres of power, particularly the Royal Court and the General Intelligence Department.

Short of an agreement among these three, Parliament will certainly not cooperate.

The current electoral law has produced a Parliament with an unimpressive performance. A few, if any, hold this Parliament in the highest regard. Most, however, say that this Parliament is spineless and ineffective in restoring checks and balances.

Despite the heated deliberations within Parliament, and despite the strong disagreement with the government almost on everything, its record of achievements is modest.

Worse, those who stood up to the prime minister are accused of harbouring personal agendas and in effect have no alternative platform.

Longtime observers of Jordanian politics make the case that barring a new electoral law designed to bring about a more independent Parliament, it is highly unlikely that the Parliament create checks and balances.

It is not as if no one could have foreseen the negative impact of the current electoral law. Indeed, many observers, myself included, warned and wrote that the Parliament will be a disappointment.

Apparently this is what drives Minister of Political Development Khaled Kalaldeh, who was an active member in the National Dialogue Committee. He is pushing for a new electoral law that is in line with his vision of what a good electoral law should be.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour supports this endeavour. Nonetheless, it is not clear yet whether the more important centres of power are really interested in such a move right now.

Casting aside a polarising electoral law will not be easy. The first stumbling block will be Parliament itself, where a majority of members believes that enacting a new electoral law means a premature end to their term. Therefore, they have an interest in procrastinating such a move for as long as they can.

For them, merely talking about a new electoral law is a nightmare. All they care about is self-preservation.

The second impediment is the society itself. Here, it is hard to say that the wider public agrees on any form of any electoral law.

The fact that some 60 per cent of the eligible voters did not cast their vote makes one take it as a statement on the electoral law.

But beyond that, it is not possible to see what the public would like to see in the new electoral law.

It is the duty of the government to engage different political and societal forces so that it could draft an acceptable law. This may take some time and may also assure the members of Parliament that they will stay for a while.

But rumour has it that the prime minister wants to get the law done in one month. If this is true, I suspect that Parliament will cooperate if all centres of power are united behind this law.

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