Jordan’s parliamentary system has undergone important changes that have contributed significantly to the improvement of basic legislative functions of representation, effective lawmaking, and oversight—all integral elements of good governance. The relationship between the legislative and the executive branches may be characterized as “flexible moderate separation of powers.” The king partakes in the legislative functions through several methods, including appointing the senators and dissolving both houses of the parliament.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The Jordanian parliament meets for four months each year. Both houses meet simultaneously. The king may prolong the ordinary session for a further period not exceeding three months to allow for the dispatch of pending matters. The king may summon the parliament for extraordinary sessions. Both houses of the Jordanian parliament may initiate debates, submit legislation to the government in the form of a draft law, and vote on legislation.
The bicameral parliament (Majlis al-Umma) consists of a House of Notables and a House of Representatives. According to the constitution, the senate, including the speaker, should consist of not more than one-half of the number of the members of the House of Representatives. 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. Some seats are reserved for religious and ethnic minorities like Christians, Circassians, Bedouins, and Chechens.
Committee Structures and Membership
Each house elects its own speaker. In the case of a tied vote, the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote. The speaker of the House of Notables as of 2003 is Zaid al-Rifai. As of 2003 the speaker of the House of Representatives is Abd al-Hadi al-Majali. Both houses have several permanent committees that deal with legal, financial, administrative, and foreign policy issues. Both houses may create other permanent or temporary committees when the need arises. Committee members in the lower chamber are elected for two years.
Legislative Drafting Processes
Resolutions are made by majority vote in both houses. Proposals are referred by the Prime Minister to the House of Representatives, where deputies can accept, amend or reject them. Each proposal is referred to a special committee in the lower house for consideration. If the representatives accept the proposal, they refer it to the government to draft it in the form of a bill and submit it back to the House for approval. A bill approved by the House of Representatives is passed on to the senate for debate and a vote.
If approved, the bill is then submitted to the king, who can either grant consent by royal decree or return the bill unapproved with justification for his refusal. In this case, the bill is returned to the House of Representatives, where the review and voting process is repeated. Any bill rejected by the senate is returned to the House of Representatives for amendment. Disagreement between the two houses is settled in a joint session of parliament. Should both houses, meeting jointly, pass the bill by a two-thirds majority, it becomes official, constitutionally overriding the monarch’s veto. No law may be promulgated unless passed by both houses and ratified by the king. Laws go into effect after their publication in the official Gazette.
The lower house of the parliament is entitled to question the government on any public issue, make accusations against ministers by a two-thirds majority, and submit a vote of no-confidence in the government. The questions are asked to the ministers in one session, and then in another session the Ministers should have all the answers with the explanation. No senator or representative may be detained or tried during the sessions of the parliament unless the house to which he/she belongs decides by an absolute majority that there is sufficient reason for his/her detention or trial, except in the case of flagrant crime. Members of the parliament also enjoy complete freedom of expression.
The Jordanian parliament, House of Representatives is a member of both the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).