Jordan Struggles to Draft Elections Law Acceptable to Opposition Parties
Albawaba.com - Amman
In a bid to head off a boycott of upcoming elections by disgruntled opposition parties and Islamist leaders, a Jordanian committee is trying to accommodate their demands in a draft elections law.
Reportedly at the instructions of King Abdullah, the committee is drafting a law that modifies the one-man, one-vote system that spurred Islamists and opposition parties to spurn the polls in 1997.
Informed sources told Albawaba.com that the committee was currently studying the endorsement of a list of demands presented by the opposition parties more than a year ago.
The list demands the creation of a 40-seat quota for the opposition at the national level, as well as the election of 80 members via the one-man, one-vote system.
According to the suggested system, a voter will elect one candidate from his/her constituency, and another from any other constituency at the national level. This way, opposition leaders will have a stronger chance of winning seats at the assembly, taking into consideration that tribal loyalties dominate the kingdom's politics.
Sources at the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the brotherhood’s political arm, welcomed the committee’s directives and its adoption of the idea of the list in the upcoming elections based on the two-vote basis. The sources said the move would be a step in the right direction that would develop party and political life in Jordan.
The IAF sources added that their demands, and those of the opposition parties, included the endorsement of the list, changes to electoral districts, lowering the voting age from 19 to 18, and the formation of a committee to supervise the elections to ensure their fairness.
In addition, they asked that the personal identity card issued by the Civil Status Department be designated as the official voter ID to avoid vote fraud.
Informed sources said there are other plans to divide the kingdom into 100 electoral districts with a possible one candidate from each. If population density is adopted as a basis for such redistricting, it will be very good news for the opposition, who depend on Jordanians of Palestinian origin living in the major cities’ densely-populated areas.
There have been complaints that the districts under the current elections law are set up unfairly.
For example, the second constituency in Amman is inhabited by about half a million citizens and represented by three deputies, while small towns in other areas in the country have two or more representatives in the Lower House.
The sources added that a quota ranging from 12 to 15 seats would be allocated to women for the first time in Jordan.
The new draft law is expected to be put together before the middle of next month, in order to leave enough time for administrative preparations, the verification of voter rolls, and the announcement of candidacies scheduled to start around mid-August.
If Parliament is dissolved, the Jordanian Constitution requires the government to hold parliamentary elections no more than four months later. In this case, new elections can be held no later than October 16, 2001.
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