A hereditary monarch constitutes the executive branch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Since 1999, King Abdullah II has filled this position. The bicameral legislature, the National Assembly (Majlis al-Umma), is composed of the House of Notables or Senate (Majlis al-Ayan), and the House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwaab). The King appoints the 55 members of the House of Notables for four-year terms. The House of Representatives until 2001 had 80 members elected for four-year terms under a plurality system from 21 multi-member constituencies. Each constituency elected between two and nine seats. Candidates must be at least 30 years of age. Voting is not mandatory, and the right was extended to all Jordanian citizens over the age of 19. The new Elections Law, issued by Royal Decree on July 22, 2001, raises the number of Lower House seats from 80 to 104, increases the number of constituencies from 21 to 44, redistributes parliamentary seats, and lowers the voting age from 19 to 18. In 2003 another royal decree allocated an additional six seats to women making the number of seats 110. Nine of the seats are reserved for Christians, three for Circassions and nine for Bedouins.
Election Laws, Systems and Processes
Elections to the House of Representatives are governed by the Law of Election to the House of Deputies, No. 22 of 1986. Elections are overseen by the Ministry of Interior, which appoints representatives to organize and monitor election proceedings at the local level. A 1993 act of legislature altered the electoral system from an at-large to a limited vote arrangement. Under this system, voters cast only one ballot, rather than being allowed to cast as many ballots as there are seats in the constituency, as in the old system. The 2001 Law keeps the controversial one-person, one-vote formula but provides for special committees, which include members of the judiciary, to supervise the electoral process in each district.
The Political Parties Law, No. 32 of 1992, governs political parties. The law pertains to the manner in which political parties are to conduct themselves and includes stipulations for party formation and party activities. In order to receive a license from the Ministry of Interior, parties must comply with certain regulations, such as having a minimum of 50 members, respect for the Constitution and the ideals of political pluralism. Since the promulgation of the 1992 law, there has been an explosion of party formation. In some cases, smaller parties have since banded together in working coalitions to contest elections.
Election law No. 34 of the year 2001 entailed reducing voting age from 19 to 18 years old; adopting an election system whereby a voter is allowed to vote for one candidate only in his/her district; increasing the number of parliament seats from 80 to 110; and allocating a quota of 6 parliamentary seats to women. The law forbids members of the armed forces and security agencies from voting in parliamentary elections.
The most recent legislative elections in Jordan took place on November 22, 2007 according to election law No. 34 of the year 2001. The number of citizens who were eligible to vote was 2.4 million, 52% of whom were women. The number of candidates was 885 of whom 199 were women. The supreme elections committee allocated 1434 voting centers that hosted 3995 ballot boxes distributed over 45 electoral districts. Most opposition parties refrained from participating in elections. The only opposition parties that ran in elections were the Islamic Action Front Party [IAFP], which is the political arm of the Muslim Brothers Group, and the National Democratic Bloc, which includes 4 leftist parties. The IAFP fielded 22 candidates including one woman in 18 electoral districts. The Democratic Bloc fielded 9 candidates. Tribal blocs and businessmen exhibited strong and broadly based participation. The National Center for Human Rights, which is an official institution independent of the government, observed the election process alongside some civil society organizations. The authorities deployed 40,000 policemen in all provinces to guarantee the safety of the lections. Participation rate was 58%.
Final results revealed a heavy loss for the IAFP as 16 of its candidates were defeated. The party won only 6 seats compared to 17 seats in the previous parliament. All 9 leftist candidates were defeated. The Islamists’ heaviest losses occurred in their strongholds: Al-Zarqa city, Al-Balqa, the third electoral district in Amman, Irbid city and the Palestinian camps. 7 women joined the new parliament. For the first time in Jordan’s history, a woman [dentist Falak Al-Jamani} was elected in an open contest outside the women’s quota. She received 3301 votes. 72 new members joined the parliament while 38 were reelected. Tribal and businessmen representation significantly increased.
The Muslim Brothers Movement accused the government of election fraud that resulted in the defeat of its candidates. Its spokesman, Jamil AbuBakr, demanded cancellation of election results in 10 districts and conducting new elections there. He hinted that their 6 elected candidates might resign. However, the Minister of Interior, Eid Al-Fayez, announced that the elections ran smoothly, were free, fair and transparent. He expressed his delight with the high participation rate.
The previous parliamentary elections took place on June 17, 2003 according to the same law. The number of eligible voters was 2.3 million. The rate of participation in the elections was 58.8 percent. The political parties that ran in the elections were: the Islamic Action Front (the political branch of the Muslim Brothers Movement) and a number of leftist and nationalist parties of the opposition. The latter ran together under the "National Democratic Block". The Islamic Action Front had 30 candidates and the National Democratic Block had 13 candidates. Moreover, dozens of independent candidates who represent tribes and clans ran in the elections, in addition to a number of ex-government officials, retired military officers and businessmen. Also, 54 women ran in the elections, some of whom represented political parties, while others were independent candidates.
Election results of 2003 elections were as follows: tribal candidates and candidates of conservative social forces achieved a decisive victory by capturing 84 parliamentary seats, while leftist and nationalist political parties failed to win any seat in parliament. The Islamic Action Front won only 20 seats, the lowest achievement in its political history. None of the female candidates were able to win any seat in parliament beyond their allotted quota. The 54 women candidates had to compete among themselves for the 6-seat female quota. Out of the 6 seats, one woman representing the Islamic Action Front was elected, while the other 5 women were independents active in public life. The leader of the Islamic Action Front claimed that there was widespread fraud in the elections. The government, however, denied that accusation.
The most recent municipal elections in Jordan took place on July 31, 2007 in accordance with a new municipal election law that gives voters the right to elect the head of municipal council and one council member only. The new law allocated 20% of all municipal seats to women and lowered voters’ age from 19 to 18 years old. In contrast to the 2003 municipal law, the 2007 law allowed voters to elect all municipal councils, except in the case of Greater Amman Council whereby voters elected half the council members, while the Ministry of Municipal Affairs appointed the other half and the council’s president.
Of the 1.9 million eligible voters, 48% were women. There were 2325 candidates contesting 1022 municipal seats. They included 361 women who competed for the 211 municipal seats (20% of the total) reserved for women. Women achieved remarkable success: one of them, an engineer, was elected mayor of the southern town of Hassa. Four others won seats not reserved for women. Final results showed that opposition parties achieved some success, with some of the 39 candidates of the “Democratic Movement,” which includes 4 nationalist and leftist parties, winning municipal seats. The “Islamic Center Party,” which is in disagreement with the “Muslim Brothers” and close to the government, won the presidency of 4 municipal councils and membership of 5 other councils outside the capital, but four Islamist opposition candidates also won.
In 2003 the Municipal Law had been amended to allow the government to appoint half of the members in any city or village council while the other half was elected. In addition, the government appointed the head of every council. On July 2003, around 58 per cent of the 803,000 eligible voters cast their ballots to elect council members to half the seats in the country’s municipalities. Candidates in 17 municipalities ran unopposed. Among the 46 women contenders, only five won seats. But the government pledged to appoint a woman in each municipality where women candidates failed to win a seat.
Voter turn out was around 65% outside the capital in 2007, but the polls had to stay open an extra day in five districts of Amman to reach the required 50% in the city. The “Islamist Action Front Party”, the political arm of the “Muslim Brothers” movement, withdrew their 33 candidates 6 hours after the voting started and accused the government and security agencies of election fraud, of ordering military personnel to vote against their candidates and allowing them to vote several times each. Security agencies registered the occurrence of 45 violent collective and individual incidents among candidates’ supporters that involved using weapons, and destruction of public and private property.
Voter turnout in rural areas had been much higher that in the major cities in 2003. Where voter turnout was low, analysts pointed to a combination of public apathy and objection to the 2003 amendment to the Municipal Law, marked by a boycott on the part of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) in protest against the amended law. IAF Secretary General Hamzeh Mansour charged that the government had no faith in the electorate.