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Workshop to Review Scenarios for Women's Representation in the Parliament

The workshop organized by Al-Quds Center for Political Studies on Tuesday March 16th discussed several scenarios for the development of the quota system for the representation of women in the Parliament; the national consensus is in favor of increasing the number of parliamentary seats designated for women, and adjusting the mechanisms so that women can be represented in the Parliament.

The Director of the Al-Quds Center Mr. Oraib Al-Rantawi, with a group of female activists presented a wide range of scenarios and their advantages and disadvantages. He also presented opportunities and obstacles facing each scenario in light of the political and social conditions and the national controversy on amending the parliamentary elections law. The need to develop the representation of Jordanian women in the parliament was emphasized whether in quantity or quality regardless of the formula resulting from the government's efforts aiming to amend the election law.

The first scenario: is based on the assumption of adopting the system of proportional representation, full or partial (mixed), a system to be introduced if adopted, whereby women have a guaranteed number of seats in the national lists/ relative competition, with at least 20% of the Parliament's seats. It has been agreed that this formula might be the optimal in the Jordanian case, not for the representation of women only, but to result in a parliament that represents the Jordanian society with all its components, and is capable of performing its regulatory and legislative functions with efficiency and professionalism, a parliament that can liberate the political life from the secondary loyalties and traditional structure and move the Jordanian experience to modernization.
The second scenario: It assumes the redistricting of constituencies on equal basis and reducing the representation gap (suggested ideas were put forth for one constituency for each seat), in this case, the currently followed quota system would be more equitable and eliminates the need for law amendment.

The third scenario: It assumes a non-substantial modification to the seats distribution system. This requires assigning a multiplying coefficient to the formula and reweighing the results to become more equitable for female candidates in high population governorates, thus the new formula for calculating the winning seats will be: dividing the number of votes of each female candidate by the total number of voters in her constituency multiplied by the number of allocated seats for that constituency, then choosing the highest weighted average (amended). In this context, several female participants have objected the adoption of a number of seats allocated to the constituency as a multiplying coefficient and demanded to adopt a percentage of those who have the right to vote in the constituency to the total number of those who have the right to vote on the national level. As the larger constituencies suffer from a representation deficiency despite of their large number of seats.

The fourth scenario: Is based on the "women's national list" system, whereby each voter has two votes, one for the constituency representative while the other for his/her choice of women's national list. This system, which is followed in Morocco, does not require any relation between political parties and the women national list, any group of women can form a coalition in the national list. Each list gets number of seats equivalent to the percentage of votes it gains, the list can also be closed or open.
A further benefit of this system is that it gives the opportunity to various activists (on the national and public levels) to be represented in the Parliament. In addition following this system will provide the electoral competition with a political/ programmatic aspect, and can be considered as a "safe rehearsal" for the relative/mixed representation systems, in case of being adopted.

The fifth scenario: It proposes the allocation of at least one seat for women in each governorate, while the remaining seats will be distributed amongst the larger governorates according to population, so that governorate system will be followed instead of directorate, as a single constituency. Female candidate will be chosen according to the number of votes she grants from her governorate, or to follow the system of the currently used female representatives using the weighted average with one of the multiplying coefficients previously mentioned in choosing female candidates for each governorate.

During the workshop, and while discussing these scenarios, female activists agreed on the importance to change the current quota system due to inequality. They demanded to increase the number of seats allocated for women within the quota system so that the increase will not be less than 20 percent. They also pointed out that any other followed formula should be fair to women in the bigger constituencies so they will not be subject to the conditions of smaller constituencies.

Female participants ruled out any substantial amendments to the current electoral system, according to reports and data. The majority of participants preferred – as per the proverb who doesn't understand the whole, doesn't leave part of it – to follow female national list system, or to include the multiplying coefficient and weighted average to the currently followed formula, which is based on the percentage of voters in the constituency to the total number of voters in the Kingdom.

"This workshop aims to put forward some concrete ideas for women's representation in the Parliament, especially that the government has actually begun discussing the development of quota system" said Mr. Oraib Al-Rantawi, Director of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies. He also uncovered that the center will begin next week to organize extensive meetings in various governorates to gather women's views on the most appropriate electoral system of their representation, as well as encouraging them to participate in the electoral process as voters and candidates.