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.

Could These Elections Bring Change After All?

On Wednesday, Jordan will hold a general election that has been touted by the regime as a step on the process to reform. What is actually going to happen is uncertain, but there are several different possibilities. One possibility is that the election produces a government that is chosen after token consultations with MPs allied with the government, and nothing will really change. There is also another, more hopeful possibility, which is that the election could lead to reform even if stalling was actually the regime’s original intention.

There is only one thing that seems certain – Prime Minister Ensour will tender his resignation the day after the election, and Jordan will have another new PM. This is likely because Ensour became the target of the protesters anger following the fuel price increases, but he is likely to remain in office as a caretaker while consultations take place, to select a PM who would be approved by a vote of confidence in the Lower House, even if the next PM is not necessarily an MP. It’s not clear who the next PM will be, but King Abdullah said in a recent discussion paper that if there was no clear majority in parliament then there would be consultations will all the relevant parliamentary blocs, and that the new PM would be approved by a vote of confidence in the lower house.

This is potentially a key change – in the current parliament having the PM be chosen by a vote of confidence is not significant immediately due to the election boycotts by much of the opposition. However, boycotts might not necessarily take place in future elections, and having the PM be approved in this manner is something that would be politically very difficult for the regime to reverse without losing further credibility.

What is most uncertain about the election is the makeup of the next parliament. With Islamists and many reformists boycotting, many leftist parties see a chance for political gains. However,  in a recent article on Al-Arabiya, one analyst, Mohamed Abu Rumman said that leftist parties are unlikely to win more than two to three seats in the next parliament. Part of the reason for this is their fragmentation. There are three lists mentioned in the article, including the People’s List and the Ploughmen’s Successor’s List which are all competing against each other for votes.  What is even less clear is the performance of the other parties – including those such as the National Current Party, which is headed by former Speaker Abdul Hadi Al Majali and the United National List which is headed by his relative Ayman Al-Majali, who both have conservative reputations, and could constitute a loyalist bloc in the next parliament.

With the election only two days away, much is uncertain. Perhaps the most important events of this election will be what happens after it takes place.