Jordan’s 2013 Parliamentary Elections at a Glance

Updated January 23, 2013—Today, approximately 2.3 million registered Jordanian voters (out of approximately 3.3 million eligible voters, and a total population of about 6.2 million) will begin voting in parliamentary elections to elect 150 MPs to the House of Deputies. There are a total of 1475 candidates competing for these seats, including 191 women. Of these, 606 are competing for the local district seats (including 105 women) and 819 are competing for the party list seats (including 86 women).

While analyzing the politics of the campaign and elections, and their importance in the context of Jordanian political reform is essential, it is important at this stage to also understand how the seats are being allocated. This is important both to properly understand the results of the election, as well as the reasons why the elections have been divisive. The regime has described them as a step on the reform process, as King Abdullah will consult parliament before naming a Prime Minister, while much of the opposition, including the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and many reformists have decided not to participate in the election. Regardless of one’s position it is important to note the procedures involved in electing MPs to the new parliament.

It is important to note the following sources for more information about the electoral process. The census data from 2011 is from GeoHive, while the number of seats in each district are from the electoral commission website.

House of Deputies: What’s at stake?

There are a total of 150 seats in the House of Deputies. Of these, there are 108 elected from 45 districts, 27 elected from party lists nationwide, and 15 reserved for female candidates under a quota system. There are also 12 seats reserved for minority groups (9 for Christians and 3 for Circassians and Chechens), and 9 seats reserved for bedouin. These are included in the district seats. While this may seem very complicated, the summaries below will make it easy to understand.

The most important thing to remember is that Jordanians will cast not one but two votes: one for the party list seats and the other for their local constituency. This is different from prior elections in which Jordanians had cast one ballot.

The electoral reform law made changes to the election process, but much of the opposition argues that it does not go far enough and is merely cosmetic. The law increased the number of seats from 120 to 150, with the introduction of proportional representation for 27 seats, and an additional 3 more seats assigned to female candidates under a quota system, increasing the number of seats reserved for women from 12 to 15. What remains is 108 seats elected from districts, which vary greatly in size. In Amman, MPs represent 96,000 residents each, while in Tafila, each MP represents approximately 22,000 residents.

Party List Seats (27 seats) – UPDATED

There are a total of 27 seats that are allocated to party lists. As mentioned above, Jordanians will cast two votes, one of which is for the party list seats and the other is for the district seats. There are a total of 61 party lists competing for these seats and the lists each have between nine and twenty-seven candidates.

Unlike the proportional representation systems in many countries, there is no minimum percentage threshold for a list to win seats. The number of seats awarded to each list will be calculated using the following method:

  1. The total number of votes each list receives will be divided by the total number of votes that all party lists receive.
  2. The resulting percentage will be multiplied by 27, with the resulting integer number being the preliminary number of seats that is awarded to that particular list.
  3. The lists will then be ranked according to the remaining fractions of a seat that they would be awarded. The list with the largest fraction will then be awarded one additional seat. This will be repeated until all the seats have been awarded to party lists.

While this method may seem complicated, it is in fact not as complex as it seems. The following example will demonstrate how this method works in practice.

Example

Total number of votes: 1 million

  • List A – 400,000 votes
  • List B – 350,000 votes
  • List C – 200,000 votes
  • List D – 40,000 votes
  • List E – 10,000 votes
  1. The total number of votes each list receives is divided by the total number of votes cast. This produces the resulting fractions: List A (0.4), List B (0.35), List C (0.2), List D (0.04), List E (0.01).
  2. These fractions are then multiplied by 27: List A (10.8), List B (9.45), List C (5.4), List D (1.08), List E (0.27). This translates into the following preliminary seat tally: List A (10), List B (9), List C (5), List D (1), and List E (no seats). This means that 25 out of 27 seats are allocated to lists, with two that remain unassigned.
  3. These two remaining seats are allocated in the order of the size of the fractional seats that each list would have been awarded, until all the seats have been distributed. This means that 1 additional seat is awarded to List A, because it has the largest fraction (0.8), and another seat is awarded to List B, with the second largest fraction (0.45).

This results in the following final allocation of seats for party lists:

  • List A – 11 seats
  • List B – 10 seats
  • List C – 5 seats
  • List D – 1 seat
  • List E – no seats.

District Seats (108 seats) – UPDATED

These seats are elected from 45 electoral districts, which vary greatly both in terms of population and in terms of the number of MPs they elect to parliament, and many areas that are historically loyal to the monarchy are overrepresented. The smallest districts elect one MP each, and the largest district, which is the First Electoral District in Balqa, elects seven MPs. The seats that are reserved for minority groups are assigned to certain districts, with the exception of the bedouin MPs, who are elected from three Bedouin districts which each elect three MPs.

The district seat MPs are elected using the single nontransferable vote system. In single-member districts the candidate who receives the most votes is elected. In a multi-member district  the number of MPs elected depends on the number of seats the district is allocated. For example, in the First District of Amman, which elects five MPs, the top five candidates will be elected to parliament.

The one exception to this is in districts where seats are reserved for minorities. In a seat such as the First Electoral District of Karak, which elects two Muslim MPs and one Christian MP, the top two Muslim candidates will be elected, as will the top Christian candidate. Voters – regardless of religious affiliation – can vote for whichever candidate they choose to support in these districts. In addition, Christian and Circassian voters who live in districts without a Christian or Circassian reserved seat can register to vote in a district that has a reserved seat provided that the district is located in the same governorate where they live.

In the previous election, there were “virtual districts” in each constituency, which meant that voters could vote in only one “virtual district” although they could choose which candidate to vote for regardless of where in the district they lived. These virtual districts were abolished by the electoral reform that was passed last year.

The following section is breakdown of the district seats by location.

Amman (Capital, Central Jordan)

The Amman governorate elects 25 MPs from seven districts. The Amman governorate has a total population of approximately 2.4 million in the 2011 census, meaning each MP represents 96,000 residents. Out of 25 MPs, there are 22 Muslim seats, 2 Circassian/Chechen seats, and 1 Christian seat. One of the Circassian seats was moved from the third district to the sixth district, causing controversy among some in the community who were upset by the move.

Balqaa (Central)

Balqaa elects 10 MPs from four districts, including 8 Muslim MPs and 2 Christian MPs. The governorate has a total population of approximately 419,000, meaning that each MP represents about 41,900 residents.

Madaba (Central)

Madaba elects 4 MPs from two electoral districts, including 3 Muslim seats and 1 Christian seat. The governorate has a population of approximately 156,000 residents, with each MP representing approximately 39,000 residents.

Zarqa (Central)

Zarqa elects 11 MPs from four districts, including 9 Muslim MPs, 1 Christian MP, and 1 Circassian/Chechen MP. The governorate has a total population of approximately 931,000, meaning that each MP represents approximately 85,000 residents.

Aljoun (North)

Aljoun elects 4 MPs from two electoral districts, including 3 Muslim seats and 1 Christian seat. The governorate has a total population of 144,000 residents, with each MP representing approximately 36,000 residents.

Irbid (North)

Irbid elects 17 MPs from nine electoral districts, including 16 Muslim MPs and one Christian MP. The governorate has a total population of approximately 1.1 million, with each MP representing approximately 69,000 residents.

Jerash (North)

Jerash elects 4 MPs from a single electoral district, all of which are Muslim seats. The governorate has a total of 188,000 residents, meaning that each MP represents approximately 47,000 residents.

Mafraq (North)

Mafraq elects 4 MPs from one electoral district, all of which are Muslim seats. The governorate has a population of approximately 179,000, meaning each MP represents approximately 45,000 residents.

It should be noted that this figure does not include the 3 Bedouin seats in the Northern Bedouin District, which are elected separately, although the district is located within this governorate. If these are included then the total number of seats from this governorate would increase to 7, but to avoid double counting these seats will be outlined below.

Aqaba (South)

Aqaba elects 2 MPs from a single electoral district, both of which are Muslim seats. The governorate has a population of approximately 136,000, with each MP representing 68,000.

Karak (South)

Karak elects 10 MPs from six districts, including 8 Muslim MPs and 2 Christian MPs. The governorate has a total population of approximately 244,000, meaning each MP represents approximately 24,400 residents.

Maan (South)

Maan elects 4 MPs from three districts, all of which are Muslim seats. The governorate has a total population of approximately 119,000, meaning each MP represents approximately 30,000 residents.

Tafila (South)

Tafila elects 4 MPs from two electoral districts, all of which are Muslim seats. The governorate has a population of approximately 88,000, with each MP representing approximatley 22,000 residents.

Bedouin Seats – UPDATED

There are a total of 9 seats reserved for Bedouin, which are divided into three Bedouin constituencies: Northern Bedouin, Central Bedouin, and Southern Bedouin. Each of these constituencies elects 3 MPs. The Northern Bedouin District is located within Mafraq governorate. The Central Bedouin district consists of parts of Amman governorate in the fourth electoral district. The Southern Bedouin District consists of parts of Aqaba and Maan governorates.

Bedouin districts are different from those which have seats reserved for the Christian or Circassian minorities. In those districts, voters are free to vote for any candidate they choose to support – for example, Muslim voters can vote for a Christian candidate if they choose to do so, and vice versa. In the three bedouin districts, the electoral law states which families are entitled to participate in electing MPs from each of the three bedouin districts. Members of these families are entitled to vote (and compete for seats in parliament) only in the bedouin district to which their family is assigned.

It should be noted that there are also three seats reserved for Bedouin women, which are included as part of the quota system.

Women’s Quota Seats (15 seats, including 3 reserved for Bedouin Women)

This election there are a total of 15 seats reserved for female candidates, including 3 that are reserved for Bedouin women. Women running for parliament do not campaign for these seats specifically, as they instead run in their districts. Each of the 12 governorates as well as each of the 3 bedouin districts is assigned one female quota seat.

In each governorate, the female candidate who receives the highest proportion of the vote in their district without being elected outright (but not the greatest number of votes, which is important because these districts have different populations) is awarded the female quota seat for that governorate. Prior to the electoral reform law passed last year, there were 12 seats reserved for women, one from each governorate. The electoral reform law added three additional seats for bedouin women, allocating one female quota seat to the female candidate receiving the highest proportion of votes (without being elected outright) in each of the three bedouin districts.

If a female candidate is elected outright then the quota seats would be assigned to other female candidates. In 2010 there were 12 quota seats, but a total of 13 women were elected to parliament because one candidate in Amman was able to get elected outright.

Will Bassem Awadallah Finally be Charged for Corruption?

Bassem Awadallah corruption

Jordan Times has reported that a corruption case will be announced within the next week. Could it involve Bassem Awadallah? I have heard from multiple people that he may finally be charged with corruption. The notorious former planning minister has been accused for years of stealing millions from the government.

It is worth noting that Bassem Awadallah’s father was close to the late King Hussein and Bassem is also close to King Abdullah. These rumors that Awadallah will be prosecuted come as the people have demanded that corruption in Jordan come to an end. First King Abdullah arrested Dahabi and now potentially Bassem Awadallah in an attempt to alleviate the concerns of the people regarding corruption at the highest levels of the regime.

This is not the first time that it has been said that Awadallah would be prosecuted. Indeed, reports of corruption and other indiscretions have surrounded Awadallah for some time. In March 2012, a committee investigating the privatization of the national phosphate company recommended prosecuting Bassem Awadallah along with former Prime Minister Mahrouf Bakhit, but no action was taken against him.

His personal life has also been the subject of much negative scrutiny. His home in Jordan, which is said to be valued at $4 million is one of the nation’s largest but he does not even live in it. He was reported to have severely beaten his wife of four months in 2009, leading her to file for divorce. When his mother died he held a funeral that was one of the largest in Jordan. There have also been incidents involving members of his family, including his father.

What is important to realize here is that prosecuting individuals, whether they are Mohammed Dahabi, Bassem Awadallah, or others makes little difference if the fundamental political culture remains the same. Otherwise things like this could become yet more attempts by the regime to make it appears that reform is happening while in fact nothing is going on.

Jordan’s King Abdullah Continues to Buy Time

Image by Troy Carter. (@CarterTroy)

King Abdullah’s most recent interview with Al Rai and Jordan Times and Al Bab either proves that he has learned nothing about the Arab Spring or is in fact a true genius. Since the beginning of 2011 King Abdullah has time and time again promised his people reform.

On November 14, 2011 King Abdullah said in an interview with Lyse Doucet of BBC that he and his government were in the process of  “rolling up our sleeves and now doing the hard work to achieve political reform.”  He appears to have mastered the art of being able to say the right things and to convince people that things are finally going to change, but the act is wearing thin.

When the people continued taking to the streets demanding much needed reform, King Abdullah’s approach never changed. He became skilled at agreeing with the need for reform and perhaps an expert at changing governments, over and over again as well. In April 2011, Prime Minister Khasawaneh resigned, holding his position for only 6 months because he felt that although he was appointed to implement reform, he was not actually being allowed to do so. In an interview with the economist Khasawneh said, “I was supposed to run a country… I won’t accept instructions from a palace.” What was King Abdullah’s response? What it has been this entire time, he not only said that reform needed to be implemented in Jordan but blamed Khasawaneh in a written letter saying that Khasawneh’s resignation was necessary because Jordan “cannot afford any delay in achieving the needed reform.”

Right now in Jordan, the people are risking their lives, and defending their dignity to protest. King Abdullah during these protests said nothing and did everything – everything that is related to issues going on outside Jordan. While his people took to the streets, King Abdullah’s only words were about Israel and Syria—yes both of which much be talked about, but how can a leader address other countries and not his own when his people literally took to his streets demanding for his downfall?

Now gives an interview for the first time since the November Uprising, and what does he say? He regurgitates the same speech that he has been reciting for the past year. This time however, he does do one thing different, he frees himself from blame. He does this by saying that these reforms that he’s been promising for the past year and half will have to be dealt with by parliament and the people, despite the fact that the upcoming election is being held under an electoral law which has led the opposition, including both the National Front for Reform and the Muslim Brotherhood to refuse to participate. Here are some highlights from his interview with the regime owned Jordan Times and Al-Rai, and Al-Bab: 

“The future of reform is in the hands of the Jordanian voters as they go to the polls early next year.”

What about King Abdullah’s own role in this process, which requires him to give up the absolute power he currently enjoys over Jordan’s political process? He’s saying that the reform is now in the hands of the Jordanian people, the parliament, everyone but himself. In a constitutional monarchy this would be fine, but as of yet Jordan doesn’t have that, so what is King Abdullah talking about? He is buying himself time, until the magical date of January 23, where all the reforms that have been promised will suddenly be implemented? Yes it sounds very nice and empowering to the people but these words mean nothing.

Regarding economic reform, he said: “It is also essential to create financial facilities for small and medium enterprises in the governorates, encourage entrepreneurship through soft loans and launch initiatives to provide empowerment, training and business incubators, as part of public-private sector partnerships. The Governorates Development Fund will play a key role in this regard.”

Not a bad idea in theory, but how is the government going to be able to successfully engage in such a program with its current record of corruption? What is more likely to happen is that business loans will be granted to those well-connected enough to be able to obtain them, and the money will be either diverted to corrupt officials and their associates, or lost altogether.

“What is important is to keep developing the law in a democratic manner through constitutional institutions to reflect the wish of the majority, so that it becomes fairer and more representative, empowers political parties, is more conducive to the formation of parliamentary governments and preserves pluralism.”

In a democracy, the people are allowed to protest, and to criticize any government officials regardless of who they are. Furthermore, the people are allowed to protest without getting beaten up, tear-gassed, tortured, or held on charges of trying to overthrow the regime. Indeed, in a democracy the notion of using force to remove a government would not exist because the government could be removed through elections, which would produce real change.

If Jordan were indeed developing the law in a democratic matter then Human Rights Watch would not constantly be writing about human rights violations. Since January 27, 2011 Human Rights Watch has been writing against the oppressive regimes tactics when it comes to the rights of the protesters, starting with their first article “Jordan: Let Jordanians Speak Their Minds.” It has not ended here, as since then Human Rights watch has published over 10 articles regarding the repressive tactics employed by the regime, most recently on September 14, 2012.

Regarding the aftermath of elections, I see it as a new stage of reforms to be implemented through the new Parliament. Then, we will move from the Jordanian Spring into the Jordanian Summer, the harvest season when the coming Parliament will start responding to several reform priorities and new issues of national concern.

Before I even being commenting on this I want to use once again what King Abdullah said in his interview with Lyse Doucet on November 14, 2011, “I think we in Jordan are going from the Arab spring to the Arab summer. I.e. rolling up our sleeves and now doing the hard work to achieve political reform.”

You cannot move from spring to summer with a parliament that is not going to be representative of the will of the Jordanian people, and that will be boycotted by almost every major opposition group. A true Jordanian summer would involve a parliament that is elected by the Jordanian people, using a fair electoral process rather than one that leaves most of the seats elected from vastly uneven districts. This also begs another question, what about last years “Arab summer”?

Additionally, true political reform means that parliament itself must assess, as the democratically elected representatives of the people, what political and other reforms get first priority.

Many on social media have praised King Abdullah’s speech and used these very same quotes to demonstrate how Jordan is on the path to reform. However, when looking into these quotes it isn’t difficult to see they mean nothing. Everything King Abdullah said was to buy himself more time. He hasn’t said anything that includes a real plan to put Jordan on the path to reform, as we simply keep hearing more of the same from the monarch.

Protests Held in Amman, Irbid, and Elsewhere

Protests continued throughout Jordan on Friday, with some of the largest protests occurring in Irbid. Rallies were also held in Amman and throughout Jordan today despite the decision of the National Front for Reform to postpone its planned protest until next Friday, November 30th due to inclement weather. This shows that despite the smaller crowds protesting in recent days the government’s disregard for the will of the people cannot continue indefinitely.

The following sections will outline events occurring in different areas throughout Jordan.  If you witness any developments, do not hesitate to tweet to us at @ImpatientBedu or email us using our contact us form, and we will add it here. Let us know if you do not want to be mentioned by name.

Amman

Protests on Friday were held against the fuel price increase, with citizens calling for boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections – in one incident, burning their voter IDs in protest. These protests were led primarily by leftist and independent groups, without a major role from Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Some protesters also called once again for the overthrow of the regime.

Irbid

According to the (albiet government-run) Jordan Times, the largest protests were held today in Irbid. There were several major protests in Irbid. Islamists organized a protest in front of Yarmouk  University demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister and the government. In addition there were two other demonstrations organized by leftist groups called “Popular Youth Coalition for Change” and the “Irbid Popular Movement for Change,” both of which called for the reversal of the decision on fuel protests.

Protesters also called for the release of the detainees who remain in custody.

Other Areas

Protests against the fuel price increase were also held in Karak, Maan, Tafileh, and Zarqa, according to @Freedom_Jordan.

 

Pensions for MPs: A Case Study of Symbolic Steps Combined with Inaction

A couple of days ago King Abdullah rejected an amendment to a law enacted in 2010 which eliminated pensions for Members of Parliament. The King also sent a letter to Prime Minister Ensour outlining plans for broader reform of civil service pensions. The government-owned Jordan Times had an online article today which is entitled “King’s decision on controversial pension law ensures equality — columnists.” The article quotes several columnists who say that the decision highlights the King’s commitment to equality, incluiding Jumana Ghneimat the chief editor of Al Ghad, whom the article said praised King Abdullah because he “used his jurisdiction to ensure equality among all, noting that the decision is in line with his constitutional powers.” From the article, one might assume that the elimination of pensions for 150 MPs may lead to greater equality among all Jordanians, but don’t be fooled. No real reform has been made.

The last parliament had a total of 120 MPs, and the parliament that will be elected after the January 23rd election will have a total of 150 MPs. According to recent reports, the total pension expenses for retired elected officials (MPs, in addition to former Prime Ministers and other officials), totals only about JD14 million, and an estimate made when MPs voted to give themselves lifetime pensions in May of this year indicated an estimated total annual cost of between JD3 to 4 million annually – all this is out of a total budget of JD6.8 billion in 2012. Is this too much? Almost certainly, and it should be dealt with, but fixing this one thing does little to solve Jordan’s long-standing economic problems. It is like prosecuting one corrupt official while leaving the overall system in place. It does nothing to solve the problems with the system itself.

So eliminating pensions for MPs is a token measure if there ever was one – becuase (with the opposition planning to boycott the election) it will only affect those likely to dominate the next parliament – “Independent” MPs who are likely allies of the King to begin with. The fact that this decision was implemented by royal decree shows that nothing has changed. In this context, whether or not the decision was the right one is irrelevant – because it was made in a flawed manner, even if it was in alignment with the will of the Jordanian people. The decision to cancel pensions for MPs was a way for the King to earn popular support at a time when he has come under fire from protesters, without actually changing anything.

Real reform involves not simply pensions for lawmakers but the way that they are elected, and in a free and fair election voters would be free to chose opposing candidates if they did not like the pensions that MPs voted to give themselves. This is true reform – not the throwing of crumbs to the population by royal prerogative.

Prince Hamzah and Jordan’s Protesters

The New York Times reported about the support that Prince Hamzah has among some of the protesters in Jordan. According to the article, activists from the opposition movement Hirak are planning to hold up pictures of Prince Hamzah at upcoming demonstrations. Prince Hamzah was said to be King Hussein’s favorite, and he insisted that King Abdullah name him Crown Prince when he assumed the throne. He did so, but in 2004 removed him, replacing him with his own son, Prince Hussein, saying that replacing him as Crown Prince enabled him to perform other duties.

Many of the supporters of Prince Hamzah are from the tribal base which the monarchy has relied upon for support. Many of the protesters arrested for chanting against the King came from areas which would traditionally be considered to be supportive of the monarchy, and they have been especially angered over the government’s recent decision on fuel subsidies. At the same time, their anger is not one-dimensional, as they are upset about the fuel subsidies but are also upset – despite being the traditional base of support for the monarchy – at the lack of political reform despite repeated promises even as they oppose the fuel price increase. In politics, nothing is ever simple.

As these same people remember King Hussein fondly, support for Prince Hamzah becomes an attractive alternative to King Abdullah, whom they view as corrupt. It is also worth noting – as this article points out – that Queen Rania has not been spared their anger either.

As of now, Prince Hamzah has said nothing, and many of the demonstrators chanting against the King have called for a republic, but Prince Hamzah’s role as an additional factor is too important to overlook. Stay tuned.

November 20: Unrest Continues; King Abdullah’s Worries Continue to be Elsewhere

The regime’s crackdown on people demanding their rights continued unabated on Tuesday, one week after the government announced that it would be raising the price of fuel. Since protests began, the regime has offered only token gestures – like cancelling the pensions of Members of Parliament – without addressing any of the real demands of the people, which extend beyond merely cancelling the price increases on fuel. The government also pledged that they would review fuel prices every month, and that they would be altered to reflect market prices – leaving open the door for further price increases after the one that was implemented last week, though prices could also fall if oil prices fall. The government also announced that payments to lower-income families could be applied for at Knowledge Stations located around Jordan. Also, Prime Minister Ensour gave an account of his meeting with the JTA saying that they “left satisfied” from meeting him on Saturday, even though they decided to go ahead with the strike action on Sunday. If he believes this, he’s very out of touch.

These actions miss the point entirely though – the government that implemented this decision was appointed by the King, rather than by parliament, and the next government after the elections will be selected by a parliament packed with “Independent” candidates who are supporters of the King. The election for this parliament will take place under inequitable laws, and will be boycotted by the opposition.

Speaking of King Abdullah, a video on YouTube may potentially offer indications as to his whereabouts during the first few days of protests. If this is real, he is mocking the demonstrators? His attention during the demonstrations has almost deliberately been focused on events occurring everywhere but in Jordan. Today, for example, he spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about the situation in Gaza, and also spoke with Netanyahu, whom he warned not to launch a ground attack in Gaza.

Since the protests began last Tuesday, @Freedom_Jordan reports that between 260 and 300 people have been arrested, with 91 of them facing charges in State Security Court. He tweeted a list of names of those arrested (in Arabic) here.

Protests continued today against the government’s decision. There were rallies in Amman and elsewhere throughout the country, and several activists were arrested. Many protesters called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Ensour and the formation of a “Government of National Salvation.” Check the regional sections below for more information about events occurring in areas around Jordan.

If you witness any developments, do not hesitate to tweet to us at @ImpatientBedu or email us using our contact us form, and we will add it here. Let us know if you do not want to be mentioned by name.

Amman

In Amman there were protests in Jebel Hussein (which marched to the Nuzha area) and in Sweileh, where a protest organized by Islamists was held. Bara’a Also’od, an activist from Tafaileh was arrested by security forces, according to @Freedom_Jordan, who also reported that Mohammad Balawi was arrested in Baqaa.

Karak

A protest was held at the Almarj mosque, at which protesters chanted that the government was playing with fire by raising prices. An article (In Arabic) mentions this protest here.

Maan

Protests were held in Amman against the government’s decision to raise fuel subsidies. At these protests demonstrators also chanted against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

Tafaileh

Protests were held at which demonstrators called for the government to reverse its decision to end subsidies on fuel.

Salt

Two students were arrested at Balqa university, according to @Freedom_Jordan.

 

Jordan: One Week Later

Today marks one week since the government announced that subsidies on fuel would be withdrawn, sparking massive protests including many which called for the removal of King Abdullah. The authorities cracked down, arresting many demonstrators and, in some cases, using tear gas and water cannons to break up demonstrations. The King did not publicly mention the demonstrations for several days, appearing to ignore the domestic situation in Jordan entirely, except for his visit to injured members of the security forces, at which he praised their conduct during the protests. His words make us wonder if the “restraint” that he praised extends to their conduct towards children and teenagers arrested and in some cases tortured during the demonstrations.

Today the government-run Jordan Times posted an article about how Jordan’s record of protecting the rights of children is improving, even as authorities were interrogating children and teenagers arrested during the protests. One of them was Taqi-Aldeen Rawashdeh, 16 years old, who was tortured while in the custody of the security forces. Anonymous Jordan (@Freedom_Jordan) posted a video of him (in Arabic) after his release in which he talks about being arrested. @Freedom_Jordan also said that most of the children detained were released on Sunday night, but also that others had been arrested since, including Ahmad Alzou’bi, who was arrested in Irbid. The article in the Jordan Times mentions several areas including education and health care but neglects to mention other fundamental rights – including the right to demonstrate and criticize any government figure – including King Abdullah – without being arrested or tortured.

The government continued its usual pattern, of making token gestures of reform while actually doing nothing to bring out meaningful change – and ignoring the demands of the protesters that the fuel price increases be rescinded. An example of this is when King Abdullah cancelled the pensions of members of parliament, by rejecting a law that parliament had passed which restored them. It’s a token gesture, which does little to nothing – given that there are only 120 Members of Parliament (it will increase to 150 after the election), and in the same article he ordered a study of pensions in the civil service, which is said to have the aim of ensuring the “highest degree of fairness” in civil service pensions. What will this result in? There are no details. The Prime MInister, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended the government’s decision.

Much of the anger is not just about the decision to raise fuel prices but also about the way that it was done, and what it represents. The government’s promise to assist lower-income families misses the point entirely – which is that the decision was implemented without any sort of democratic accountability.

Protests took place around Jordan, including in Amman, Irbid, Maan, Karak, Aqaba, Tafileh, and elsewhere. Many protests in Amman called for the removal of King Abdullah. Irbid was the site of the protest movement’s first martyr, Qais Al-Omari, whom police initially tried to say was part of an armed attack on a police station. The authorities misled their own people – in addition to BBC and the Associated Press – about this incident but it is not clear if anyone is going to be held to account for it. There were also strikes by students, in addition to numerous professional associations.

The largest opposition groups – and many of those demonstrating – are calling for reform rather than the overthrow of the regime, but the regime seems at this point still committed to its course of stalling and making promises that it will later attempt to go back on. The events of the last week have made one thing clear – the people of Jordan have awakened and the regime’s old tactic of promising reform and democracy without ever actually delivering is not going to work anymore. The decision on fuel prices might still be in place, but something has changed in the last week.

Day 6: King Praises Security Forces, Protests and Strikes Continue

Sunday in Jordan was the sixth day since protests sparked by the government’s decision to raise prices on fuel began. In addition to his meeting with Quartet Envoy Tony Blair and condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza, King Abdullah finally addressed the ongoing crisis, and demonstrated his sympathy is with the security forces rather than the people demanding their rights. He visited injured police and security personnel in the hospital, and praised their “restraint” and their efforts to enforce the law and protect constitutional rights, the most important of which is “which is the right to demonstrate peacefully and express their opinions. I can’t help but say that if he truly believes that the people have the right to express their opinions, they should be able to express their opinions about anyone and anything, including him.

He had nothing but praise for the security forces. He said that “Members of these apparatuses are our brothers and sons who have manifested the highest levels of professionalism, responsibility, patience and wisdom during the recent riots and over the past two years in which they made remarkable efforts and did a perfect job.” In other words, to the King, the events of the past few days, when people demanded their rights are “riots.” Jordanians heard nothing from him for several days and then when they did hear something it merely confirmed what they had known for a long time – that he appears to be completely out of touch.

He seems to be attempting to follow a familiar strategy of stalling and offering vague future promises only to break them later. It’s as though, by visiting security forces he’s trying to act as though he’s a limited constitutional monarch when he isn’t, and requiring the government – his 12th since assuming the throne – to take responsibility for the fuel price increase while he appears to be a neutral arbiter. Then, in a short while he’ll make vague promises of future reform and – in a show of generosity – pardon those arrested for criticizing him, in the hope that the cycle can continue indefinitely.

The cabinet announced that independent state agencies would be restructured. This includes the Executive Privatization Commission which is going to be folded into the Finance Ministry.

Protests and strikes continued today, both in Amman and around the country. According to @Freedom_Jordan, the Teachers’ Association announced that its strike would continue for another day, and the general strike had a greater impact outside the capital, in Karak and Maan than it had in Amman. All major unions except for the nurses union participated in strikes on Sunday, including the doctors’ union, although that union made provision for emergency personnel to remain at work. The National Front for Reform announced that there would be a large demonstration in Amman on Friday, November 30th.

Once again, today’s summary includes sections about developments around Jordan. If you witness any developments, do not hesitate to tweet to us at @ImpatientBedu or email us using our contact us form. Let us know if you do not want to be mentioned by name.

Amman

According to @freedom_jordan, protests in Amman were scheduled to begin at the Abu Hanifeh mosque, and at the Hussein mosque in Jebel al-Hussein. The protest in Jebel al-Hussein walked to the Nuzha area. There was also another protest beginning at Tafaileh neighborhood, which headed downtown. Demonstrators chanted that they were proclaiming a republic, and police responded by attacking the demonstration. However, all the demonstrations in Amman ended peacefully.

Karak

Two protests were held in Karak. The general strike had a greater impact here than in Amman, according to @freedom_jordan.

Maan

According to @freedom_jordan, the general strike had a greater impact here than in Amman.

Tafileh

According to @taylor_luck, there were hundreds of demonstrators protesting in Tafileh today.

It’s Not Real Reform If You Can’t Criticize the King

Image by World Economic Forum

The security forces are reported to be interrogating 130 detainees whom they have determined are to be detained for 15 days. These detainees, who were arrested during protests this week might be charged with “threatening to undermine the regime.” The charges, if someone is convicted of them, carry a potential prison sentence of five years. Reuters reports that many of those being interrogated are teenagers. The Washington Post, meanwhile, says that Jordan’s military prosecutor has charged 89 protesters with “inciting violent revolt,” which carries a potential 15 year jail sentence.

The Reuters report tempers the jail sentences the activists face by saying “convictions in such cases are rare” and that during recent demonstrations last winter there were dozens of protesters who faced similiar charges who received pardons. One example is Uday Abu Issa, only 18 years old, who was sentenced to two years in prison for “undermining the King’s dignity” after he burned a picture of King Abdullah.

He was convicted on January 28th, 2012. About a month later, on February 29th, King Abdullah pardoned him. This means that he still spent more than thirty days in jail simply for burning a picture, which he said when interrogated that he did in solidarity with an unemployed man who set himself on fire due to his poverty. His action – burning the King’s picture – was deemed so threatening that he needed to be prosecuted for it. In a truly free society, if someone burned a picture of the King, nothing would happen.

Dignity is something that’s earned, not something that can be protected by the threat of jail time. In a true constitutional monarchy, if a critic of King Abdullah called for his removal, someone who disagrees with them should express their own opinion, argue with them, and say why constitutional monarchy is a good idea – not by threatening to have that person arrested.

To have true reform and democracy – rather than just token steps to buy time – all institutions, and the monarchy is no exception, must rest upon the will of the people, under laws agreed upon and passed by a democratically elected parliament with real power, with a Prime Minister chosen by such a parliament, where none of these institutions can be suspended or dissolved simply by royal decree. Until Jordan has that, any token measures that the government announces are merely cosmetic.