Politics in Jordan
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy that has survived the volatile political situation in the Middle East in the last 6 decades by being able to cope with all major events that shaped the current political system of the region.
Like all its neighbors in the Arab world, the country has not enjoyed democracy over much of this period, its people subjected to political pressure and lack of involvement in political life, but without the sufferings of dictatorships and systematic torture imposed by nationalistic Arab regimes.
Jordan’s Organic Law was instituted in April 1928 under the guidance of Emir Abdullah. It provided for a consultative parliament, and Jordan’s first elections were held in April of the following year. This document was transformed after Jordan gained full independence in May 1946, following the abolition of the British Mandate. A new constitution was formulated and adopted by the Legislative Council on November 28, 1947. It was published as law in the Official Gazette on February 1, 1947.
A few years later, the Constitution was liberalized by King Talal and ratified on January 1, 1952. It is the one in current use today.
Jordan’s constitution stipulates that the country is a hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary system. It outlines the functions and powers of the state, the rights and duties of Jordanians, guidelines for interpretation of the Constitution and conditions for constitutional amendments. It mandates the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and outlines the regulation of the government’s finances, as well as the enforcement and repeal of laws.
Importantly, the Constitution specifically guarantees the rights of Jordanian citizens, including the freedoms of speech and press, association, academic freedom, political parties, freedom of religion and the right to elect parliamentary and municipal representatives.
Jordan eventually re-introduced democracy in 1989 with national elections for the Parliament, new laws for political parties, media and publishing, and fewer restrictions on freedoms of expression. The country is now one of the most politically open in the Middle East and a process of “political development” has been activated with the support of King Abdullah.
Source: www.oneworld.ca, www.kinghussein.gov.jo
Present Day Jordan
Jordan is stable, and this is to a large extent explained by the fact that Jordan has some democratic structures, even if the king is very strong and omnipresent in Jordanian political life. There is also a certain level of freedom of speech.
Jordan thrives from the moderate politics and flexibility of its new king, a line he continues from his father, Hussein I, who died in 1999.
The ten last years of Jordan’s political history have seen strong changes. A ban leaving the Communists and the Islamists out of politics, was lifted in 1991. Both parties are now strongly represented in the parliament. “The Jordan Example”, meaning that the rhetorics of the Islamists are weakened by the responsibility of power and real influence, is strongly discussed all over the Muslim world.
Another kind of politics, the politics of power, was implemented earlier, and Jordan has many times been on the fringes of civil war. This was in particular connected to the activities of the PLO.
In recent years the popular support of the Islamists has weakened, and in elections in 1995 they lost a large percentage of their seats in the parliament.
Abdullah I 1921-1951
Abdullah II 1999-
House of Representatives Seats (General election June 17, 2003)
Independent and tribal representatives 80
IAF (Islamic Action Front) 17
Independent Islamists 5
Leftist Democratic Party 2
Political Participation of Women in Jordan
Jordan has seen important achievements in recent years regarding women’s rights and empowerment and the raising of their status in society.
In addition to increasingly entering the workplace, education and politics, women have recently obtained a number of rights, represented in amendments to some laws, including a quota of seats for women in Parliament and provisions related to divorce initiated by the wife, male polygamy, and the raising of the legal age of marriage.
In addition, a gender perspective was incorporated in the five-year national development plan for 1999–2003 in various state institutions and government departments.
Development of political parties
In Jordan, political parties go back to the founding of the state and experience with parties has undergone various phases.
The constitution of 1952 stated the right of citizens to set up and join political parties, and this was confirmed by the Political Parties Law of 1955.
In that period, Jordan had active parties and held parliamentary elections that led to a coalition government formed by the whole of the country’s political spectrum. In 1957, martial law was declared and parties were banned until 1989. A new Political Parties Law was issued in 1992 and life began to return to the old political parties, while new ones emerged. They have participated as such in three parliamentary elections since then (in 1993, 1997 and 2003) but have not been able to play their role in democratic transformation and political participation. As of June 2003, there were 31 licensed parties.
Electoral system reform
The last four elections (in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2003) produced various types of practices and rituals connected with the election process – a type of election culture. In the 1950s, candidates came mostly from the ranks of political or party activists, and parties enjoyed a reasonable degree of freedom.
Today, after party activity was banned for over 30 years, a large number of candidacies for election to Parliament are on a tribal or individual, independent basis, which explains the very large number of candidates, some of whom gain only a few dozens or hundreds of votes, which indicates that there is no objective justification for their standing.