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Activists welcome rise in women candidates, but warn of vote splitting

By Rana Husseini - Oct 27,2020 - Last updated at Oct 27,2020

AMMAN — Experts and activists on Tuesday praised the increase in number of women running for the upcoming elections, but said this could split the number of votes in certain districts, which would result in fewer women securing seats.

In the previous Lower House of Parliament, 20 women won seats, including 15 who secured their seats via the women’s quota that was introduced in 2003, while the rest won in direct competition.

The total number of registered candidates is 1,693, including 364 women, representing 21.4 per cent of the total candidates, according to the Independent Election Commission.

“Having this large number of women who decided to run is very positive, but it could backfire on them because there is tough competition in certain districts and the votes that could be allocated to them will be scattered,” said Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) Executive Director Asma Khader.

Nevertheless, Khader told The Jordan Times that even if the number of women MPs remains at 20, “the idea that the number of females willing to run is increasing over the years is a clear indication that more and more women are willing and ready to take part in the decision-making and political process in Jordan”.

She pointed out a recent statement by SIGI that indicated that the percentage of women running this time increased by 46 per cent in comparison with the number of women candidates who ran for the 18th Lower House of Parliament in 2016.

In addition, the SIGI statement indicated that there were four all-female lists and three other lists that included one man and the rest were women. 

On the other hand, the SIGI statement indicated that there were eight registered lists that did not include in any women in them.

Having only eight lists without women out of the over 290 registered lists is also another positive indicator, Khader said, adding that “more male candidates are becoming more supportive of having women run with them”. 

“This would also result in more women’s images being placed on posters either independently or among their own bloc, which would work to “break stereotypical beliefs and strengthen the fact that women are equal citizens who have the will to improve the general condition in the country,” she said.  

Before 2003, when the six-seat quota was introduced and later increased to 15 seats, only one woman, Toujan Faisal, managed to win a seat in direct competition.

Al Hayat Centre for Civil Society Development (Rased) Director General Amer Bani Amer said he feared a decline in the number of women under the Dome this time.

“There are many women running in the same districts and this is both good and bad since this factor will work to divide the votes of people who planned to vote for women,” Bani Amer told The Jordan Times.

Moreover, Bani Amer added that the male candidates in the lists might “indirectly discourage voters from voting for women in their lists so they would not lose in the elections”.

“In the previous elections, several male candidates lost because people voted for them and for women in their lists thinking that women will only win via the quota, but the results showed that five more females won outside the quota and ended up beating men in their lists,” Bani Amer noted.

Former MP and Secretary General of the Jordanian People’s Democratic Party Abla Abu Olbeh added her voice to Khader and Bani Amer’s concerns regarding the vote scattering factor.

“This will surely work against certain female candidates who are surely capable of performing well under the Dome but would end up losing because the votes will be divided,” Abu Olbeh told The Jordan Times.

Abu Olbeh suggested the establishment of a national women entity “that would work to unite women’s work and efforts in preparation for the upcoming elections”.

“Such an entity could initiate a strong dialogue that would have ethical power among women so that the election process would be better organised and voices are united to ensure that women with the best chances would end up competing in the elections,” Abu Olbeh added.

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