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Combining Open Proportional Representation System and Decentralised Electoral Districts

2016-12-17

Circles close to the Jordanian government talk about ideas to amend the Decentralisation Law. Whether or not this talk is true, we believe that this law needs fundamental amendments to change its plurality voting system, switching to open proportional representation system. Although, Jordan approved a modern system for the general election combining the party-list and open proportional representation systems, the state decided to adopt the disastrous concept of the one-person, one-vote in governorate council elections, giving electors two votes instead of one. This is inapprehensible. Around half of electoral constituencies have one seat each with one vote for every elector -- which shows that we are still in square one.
The problem started when the lower house approved the Decentralisation Law, tasking the government, pursuant to Article 6/A, with specifying the number of elected governorate council members, and dividing their electoral districts and seats in every governorate. This means that the lower house gave greenlight to the government to do whatever it deems fit. Despite the importance of the Decentralisation Law, the former government and 17th Lower House of Parliament bequeathed to us a crippled law.
Supporters of the electoral system in the Decentralisation Law, which fragmentises districts, have a strong argument. They say the system is designed to ensure the representation of different administrative units in governorate councils, and that is why a majority of electoral constituencies is comprised of municipalities or parts of them.
It is difficult to persuade those supporters to drop the small districts in favour of large constituencies. So, we propose an innovative formula combining the system of districts stipulated in the Provision No. 135 of 2016, and the open proportional representation rule. The formula requires candidates to run for council elections under electoral lists at the level of small and medium-sized governorate, or in large governorate districts, similar to parliamentary election constituencies. The number of electoral list candidates representing a certain district may not exceed the number of seats reserved for this constituency.
For example, in the 31-district Greater Amman Municipality, the Fifth District groups 11 area with 13 lower house seats. If an electoral list wants to compete for all the 13 seats, it must field one candidate for Wadi Al Seer, Badr Al Jadidah, Sweileh, Jubeiha, Shafa Badran, Abu Nseir, Marj Al Hamam, Hesban Municipality, and Um Al Basatin Municipality. The same electoral list must also nominate two candidates for Naour Municipality, Talaa Al Ali, Khalda, and Um Al Summaq. Using the open proportional representation system, one candidate wins in every area with one seat reserved, and two candidates in every area with two seats reserved.
This approach ensures a dynamic governorate council election under the Decentralisation Law, based on the principles of teamwork, and election programmes. Naturally, adopting the approach requires determining the minimum number of list candidates, election results, and voting system.
It goes without saying that in-depth understanding of the Decentralisation Law and governorate council election system by political and social powers is a must for any amendments planned for the future. This was recently emphasised by Chairman of the Parliamentary Administrative Committee, Marzuq Al Daajah, who called for launching awareness campaigns, and workshops in all governorates to educate the public on the Decentralisation Law. Based on our experience with the new Election Law and the fact that many electros and candidates were not sufficiently aware of the legislation, we reiterate Daajah's call.