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Royal Committee proposes inclusive, mixed electoral system

Proposals call for guaranteeing political participation of youth, women and persons with disabilities

By JT - Oct 04,2021 - Last updated at Oct 04,2021

Chairman of the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System Samir Rifai

AMMAN — The Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System on Sunday announced its final recommendations, which included two new draft laws for elections and political parties, as well as constitutional amendments legally related to the two draft laws and parliamentary work, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Recommendations also focused on regulating local governance and the creation of a legislative and political environment that guarantees the participation of youth, women and persons with disabilities.

The report, received by His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday, included a detailed summary of the outcomes of the Royal commission's work. 

The committee highlighted the notion of national identity, which is inclusive and belongs to everyone, as one of the basic conditions for building a national democratic model. 

The committee described national identities as “central and cohesive, representing sub-identities, celebrating sub-cultures of local communities, cities, villages and groups, and enriching the national democratic model”.

The committee proposed adopting a mixed electoral system that includes two levels of representation: National general districts and local districts. 

During elections, the Kingdom is divided into 18 local electoral districts and one national general district, the committee suggested, adding that 41 seats, out of a total of 138 seats, would be allocated for the general district. 

The national electoral lists would also be exclusive to political parties with a passing threshold of 2.5 per cent of the total number of voters in the national general district.

Within the general district, at least two seats are allocated for Christians and at least one for Circassians and Chechens.

To enhance the political participation of youth and women, the law lowered the age of candidacy to 25 years, stipulating that electoral lists should include at least a young man or woman of no more than 35 years of age who ranks among the first five candidates.

At the level of the general district, one female candidate should be ranked among the first three candidates, and another female candidate should be ranked among the next three candidates.

In order to ensure equal representation, the electoral draft law stipulated that the list nominated for the general district must have candidates distributed over half of the local electoral districts in the Kingdom.

The general district aims to consolidate the national identity, establish a sense of a social and political collective, and enable political parties to progress based on programmatic work and enhance political life in the Kingdom.

In regard to local districts, they include three electoral districts for Amman, two districts for Irbid, an electoral district for each of the rest of the Kingdom’s governorates, and three districts for the Badia. 

Candidates in the Badia can run for elections outside their Badia electoral districts, while candidates outside Badia can also run for elections in Badia electoral districts. 

Voters outside Badia districts, however, cannot vote for Badia electoral lists and vice versa.

Within local districts, at least seven seats are allocated for Christians and at least two for Circassians and Chechens.

The number of seats in local electoral lists should not exceed the number of seats allocated for each local district, the committee said, adding that the passing threshold for each local district would be 7 per cent of the total number of voters in a local district.

For each local district, an additional seat is allocated for women.

Candidates running for seats reserved for women, Christians, or Circassians and Chechens in local districts must choose the candidacy path they desire: Quota or free competition.

The draft law does not require public-sector employees running for elections to submit their resignations, as submitting an unpaid leave for 90 days before the date of the poll would suffice, which would strengthen and facilitate running for elections without losing rights and benefits, especially among youth, women and academics.

The draft law also stipulated penalties for election crimes, describing the litigation process.

The law obligated the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to provide a page on its website, through which it broadcasts the procedures for collecting results on an ongoing basis.

The law sets expenditure ceilings for electoral advertising in all electoral districts.

Pertaining to voters, the draft law uses the address of voters’ permanent residence to define their electoral district, which enhances the process of political participation and social cohesion and limits affiliation with sub-identities.

The law included general provisions for the 21st and 22nd Lower Houses to gradually increase the proportion of partisan seats.

In regard to partisan life, the draft law aims to enable political parties to create programmes and to form or participate in governments in accordance with Article (35) of the Constitution. 

The law also motivates people to form programmatic political parties freely and effectively to expand the representation of political parties in Jordanian society.

The law also enabled political parties to participate in elections of all kinds. 

The law specified that the number of founders of a party should not be less than 300 members, noting that the founding ceremony of a party should be held within a period not exceeding one year since the beginning of the party’s social activities. 

During the founding ceremony, the party members should not be less than 1,000, the law set forth, provided that and the founders must be residents of at least six governorates, taking into account that there are no less than 30 people from each governorate.

A total of 20 per cent of the founders should be between the ages of 18 and 35, while women should constitute at least 20 per cent of the total number of founders.

Among the founders, at least one person with disabilities should partake in the party, the draft law requires, noting that founders attending the founding ceremony are no less than the majority of its founding members.

The law ensures that no citizen may be subjected to, questioned, held accountable or deprived of their legal rights due to their party affiliation.

It also grants the right to students of higher education that are members of the party to practise all party activities within the campus of educational institutions without any restrictions or prejudice, provided that special regulations are issued to organise these activities.

The law called for establishing a department called the “Registry of Parties” in the Independent Election Commission, a neutral independent body, which authorises the establishment of the party in accordance with the provisions of the Political Parties Law,  follows up on party affairs, and ensures their adherence to laws and regulations. 

The law also permitted parties to establish political relations with other internal or external parties or with federations of international political parties, within the framework of the national and general political interest of the state and with adherence to the provisions of the Constitution and the law, provided that this relation does not constitute an organisational link to the party with those parties or unions.

Regarding the financial empowerment of parties, the party, after the announcement of its establishment, enjoys a legal personality, and it has the right to own the necessary movable and immovable funds to enable it to carry out its tasks and any other actions in accordance with the provisions of the law, in addition to exempting the party’s headquarters from all taxes and government fees that result from immovable funds.

The law also considered that donations and gifts provided to the party are deductible expenses from funds subject to income tax on companies and individuals in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Law, and an item is allocated in the state’s general budget to contribute to supporting parties from Treasury funds, and specifying the conditions for providing support, its amount, aspects and procedures for disbursing it according to the system issued for this purpose.

The secretary-general of the party may not occupy this position for more than two consecutive terms, provided that the party determines the duration of the term not exceeding four years. 

As for constitutional amendments, they included enhancing legal protection for persons with disabilities and increasing their participation in the political, economic, social and cultural aspects, altering the number of deputies required to hold a confidence session to include 25 per cent of deputies.

The proposed amendments also included limiting the immunity of former ministers, highlighting the necessity of trying them before the law and stipulating that the prime minister who loses the confidence of the Lower House may not be assigned to form the next Cabinet.

Instead of the majority, 25 per cent of the Senate or Lower House would be able to refer to the Constitutional Court to object against the unconstitutionality of a law. 

According to the new draft law, the resignation of deputies would be legally effective from the date of its submission, without the need for approval.

Lower House speakership would become one year instead of two, in accordance with the law, and deputies enjoy the right to choose and evaluate the performance of the speaker annually or dismiss a speaker with two-thirds of deputy votes. 

The amendments included the consolidation of the principle of separation of powers by prohibiting the combination of the membership of the Senate, the Lower House or the Cabinet.

A proposed constitutional article was added requiring that the ownership of gifts obtained by a senator or a deputy because of their membership to be transferred to the Treasury. 

The committee recommended amending the article requiring the Cabinet’s resignation when a Lower House is dissolved.

The amendments also included the introduction of a constitutional provision requiring the Senate and the House of Representatives to discuss the Audit Bureau report during the session in which it is presented, or at most the next regular session. 

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