Jordan goes to polls on Tuesday to elect a new parliament

The election for the 130-member House of Representative is happening amidst unprecedented economic and health crisis in the country. The government had recently cracked down on the country’s largest teachers’ union.

November 09, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit: Xinhua News Agency

Jordan will go to polls on Tuesday, November 10, to elect members for its House of Representatives. The elections were necessitated after King Abdullah II dissolved the parliament in September.

As per the law in Jordan, a new parliament needs to be elected within four months of the dissolution of the existing one. The term for the parliament in four years.

Around 4.5 million eligible voters will elect the 130-member House of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwaab), which is one of the chambers of the National Assembly (Majlis al-Umma). The other chamber is called the Senate. The Senate or Majlis al-Ayan has 65 members who are appointed by the King.

Over 1,670 candidates are contesting from 294 lists. The country is divided into 23 electoral districts. The representatives are chosen on the basis of open list proportional representation from these 23 districts. 15 seats are reserved for women and nine for Christians and other religious minorities.   

Due to COVID-19 related restrictions, campaigning was limited. Most of the candidates were forced to campaign online through social media platforms.  

Though the Jordanian parliament does not have much power and the king is the final authority, its members provide crucial aid and services to their electors mostly based on tribal affiliations and local contacts.

This year’s elections are being held amidst the severe economic challenges faced by the country primarily due to COVID-19 outbreak which has affected its tourism industry badly. As of November 8, Jordan had over 47,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,200 deaths related to it. It has seen a resurgence in the number of new cases since the last week of October.

Tourism accounts for more than 14% of the country’s GDP. Jordan is a heavily foreign aid dependent economy. Aid has also been affected due to the pandemic. The unemployment rate in the country is over 23% and the prices of essential commodities are ever increasing. The number of poor in the country is also rising, with the poverty rate increasing by almost 16 percent.

In the last few months Jordan has seen an unprecedented popular mobilization against the government which includes the protests organized by teachers demanding salary hikes and better working conditions. The government conceded the teachers’ demands but did not fulfil its promises and instead cracked down on the largest teachers’ union, the Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate.

Most of the elected representatives of the country are unaffiliated and the major political block in the country is the Islamic Action Front. The Jordanian Communist Party, which had one elected representative in the last parliament, has formed a progressive coalition with other left parties, contesting the elections with the motto “the people are the source of authority” and with the agenda of more power to the parliament.