Jordan’s parliament without an opposition

Why Jordan’s new lower house will be cosmetic at best?

The results of Jordan’s Tuesday parliamentary election are predictable. Pro-government loyalists and tribesmen with strong ties to the monarchy are expected to sweep the election, with the largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front party is boycotting to protest an electoral law it describes as unfair.

The one-man-one-vote law is clearly engineered to deprive the Islamic Action Front of votes and they’re simply fed up with it.

Voter turnout is expected to reach an average of 40% and drop down to as low as 20% in areas densely populated by Jordanians of Palestinian origin, where votes normally go to the Islamists.

This is an election where not only Palestinian Jordanians feel marginalised, but so too does a majority of the Jordanian public that has simply lost confidence in the legislature.

King Abdullah dissolved the last parliament (also known as the worst parliament in Jordanian history) at the end of 2009 halfway through its four year term for inept handling of legislation and failing to address poverty and unemployment.

Eager for electoral law change, the public is surprised a year later that the one-man-one-vote law that created the previous incompetent parliament hasn’t changed…neither have the candidates. Seventy-five percent of the MPs in the last Lower House are running for the same seats again. This makes it next to impossible for a higher calibre of MPs to reach parliament. The election law in place since 1993 has managed to create sub-identities and split Jordan into Palestinian and Bedouin areas. This can’t be good for national unity and the painful consequences will be felt later.

Jordanians were let down in the 2007 election when they found out the whole system was rigged.  Most believed allegations that ballot boxes were stuffed by the authorities to help pro-government candidates win at the expense of Islamists, so that the monarchy can maintain a firm grip on the legislature. If the government has to guarantee a win for its staunchest supporters yet again on Tuesday, it is easy to understand why Jordanians feel their individual votes and choices don’t really count at the end of the day.

Apathy and disbelief mar the mood surrounding this election, and voter turnout will do little to determine its credibility.

In fact, this election will produce an even weaker parliament because there won’t be any opposition voices trying to veto unpopular laws. Expectations are that a mostly tribal parliament will be such strong bedrock of support for the monarchy, it won’t dare to criticise the government’s pro-Western policies.

This parliament will be cosmetic at best.