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Political reform in Jordan

Nov 28,2019 - Last updated at Nov 28,2019

In the past few years, and especially since the release of King Abdullah’s Discussion Papers, there has been a series of talks about political reform in Jordan. The Discussion Papers consist of seven papers that the King has written in the form of guiding letters to Jordanians, whereby he outlines his vision for the future of Jordan. In the papers, the King discusses a range of issues, a main one being moving towards a parliamentary government system. Parliamentary government is a democratic form of government in which the political party that wins the most seats in parliament during the election forms the government. The majority party then chooses a leader to become the prime minister, and other high-ranking members of the party make up the Cabinet. The minority party forms the opposition, and its job is to challenge the majority party. 

This form of government originated in Great Britain and is implemented as a form of democracy in many countries, including Australia and Turkey. 

In order for Jordan to make steps towards this path, we first need to reflect on our current political sphere. Upon the last elections, the voting law was an open proportional list. Open proportional lists work when there is an established and active political environment. An environment where this is still developing would be, as I stated in a previous article, titled “To elect judiciously” which denotes the transformation of our election  law to a closed proportional list.This is the system used in Great Britain to elect members of the European Parliament. This will increase the likelihood of citizens voting based on structured programmatic components, rather than simply personal relations. This will also allow an acceptable number from the list or part to get into parliament, enough to enact the change their constituents voted upon, rather than just one or two individuals. This would be the first step towards the development of the political spectrum in Jordan. This will allow Parliament to elect 130 representatives to be formed of groups with political programmes and ideologies that represent people rather than just individuals.

Secondly, an analysis of the political parties in Jordan needs to take place. There are currently 49 registered political parties in Jordan. No one citizen would be able to effectively learn about all 49 programmes in depth. As stated in King Abdullah’s Discussion papers, specifically paper No. 5, focus needs to then be on mapping those 49 political parties and combining those that align in ideologies. Each political party in Jordan is funded with JD50,000 from the national budget and when multiplied by 49, equals JD2450000. If political parties are narrowed down, this funding can be slightly increased per party and each party can have a higher stake at making an impact both through increased membership and an increase in funding.

However, if the government is setting an allowance to give to political parties for its development, this needs to be set with a timeline and aligned with quantitative and qualitative goals, and given only until they reach a level ready for parliamentary governments. After that, these parties need to be self-sufficient financially.

While in the process of developing truly effective political parties, there needs to be monitoring by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs of the plans set out by those parties. Parties can only get funding upon presenting a comprehensive plan with quantitative and qualitative goals connected to a timeline. Funding needs to be divided into a quarterly basis throughout the year and not given as a lump sum. If these political parties don’t deliver to the outcomes they stated, funding for the next quarter needs to be revisited.  

Upon narrowing down the political parties as suggested above, the education system needs to be altered to reflect material including information about these political parties, their social beliefs and economic plan so at an early age, the child can develop a political understanding and are ready to vote responsibly when the time comes. Each party needs to be required to make certain visits to schools and universities to present its programme. The education system needs to be updated to include detailed information about the Jordanian Constitution as well as the King’s Discussion Papers which can act as a roadmap that young leaders can learn and adhere to.

Upon reading King Abdullah’s Discussion Papers, these are some recommendations that I believe can take us down the path of parliamentary governments that His Majesty envisions. 

 

The writer, a graduate of the university of Texas at Arlington, works in public service. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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