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Analytical Readings in the Parliamentary Elections and the Parliamentary Government
In cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and with the support of the European Union, Al-Quds Center organized a conference called "Analytical Readings in the Parliamentary Elections 2013 and the Parliamentary Government." The Conference took place on 13 February 2013. It was held in Hayat Amman Hotel in the Jordanian Capital- Amman with the participation of more than 70 partisan, political, and parliamentary figures and representatives to the civil society.
In the opening session, Mr. Oraib Rantawi- Director General of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies gave a speech in which he stressed the importance of reading results of the parliamentary elections especially that those results were disappointing for the political parties. He emphasized that no democracy can be achieved away from effective parties. He hoped that the discussions among participants would help enhance the directive towards partisan democracy and a plural party parliament. Dr. Otmar Erwing- Representative of Konrad Adaneaur Stiftung in Aman briefed the participants on the operation and activities of Konrad Adaneaur with the Civil Society Organizations in Jordan. He mentioned that this Conference was aimed at developing the parliamentary life and support participation of political parties.
Session I: Analytical Readings in the Results of Elections (1)
MP Falak Jam'ani chaired the first session. She commended the role of Al-Quds Center and its organization of useful activities that serve the community. She mentioned that Al-Quds Center is a major think-tank as it is keen on delivering quality activities and studies with the purpose of enriching the political, parliamentary, and democratic life in Jordan.
At the beginning of this session, Researcher Hussein Abu Rumman-Manager of the Studies Unit at Al-Quds Center delivered a power point presentation entitled: "A Preliminary Reading in the Results of Parliamentary Elections 2013". In it, he highlighted the general context of the elections starting with the constitutional amendments in relation with the elections including the establishment of an Independent Commission for Elections and moving the jurisdiction to consider contested membership of elected MPs to the judiciary. He highlighted features of the new Electoral Law No. 25 for 2012. He mentioned that changing the one-man-one vote law with the "non-transformable" vote into a parallel mixed discipline that gives one vote to the voter in the local constituency and another vote to a relative closed list at the general constituency at the Kingdom level. Researcher Abu-Rumman went through the distribution of seats of the House of Representatives which count for 150 between the general constituency and the local constituencies (108 seats); and the women quota (15 seats).
He mentioned that the Islamic Action Front and other political parties and forces boycotted the elections and highlighted the impact of raising prices of fuel on the atmosphere in which the elections took place. Then, he described the events of elections starting with registration for elections; those registered on voting tables counted for 63.7% of total citizens entitled for voting. The presentation mentioned the numbers of candidate men and women in the individual and partisan lists in the general constituency. The average national voting counted for 56.7%; the presenter mentioned the top five constituencies and the bottom five constituencies in terms of the voting rates and the results of amendment in relation with the voters' behavior. Abu Rumman explained that the representation gap; i.e. the waste votes counted for 57.7% at the local constituency level and 33.2% at the general constituency level.
The Researcher mentioned the numbers of winners from the ten partisan candidate lists; 9 seats out of 27 seats. The lists were open to all. He said that the experience is interesting because it broke the individual candidacy routine. It was a desperate experience as it did not add substantially to the partisan process.
The Researcher explained the negative aspects that resulted in the national relative lists such as the ample number of lists (61 lists). Lists according to the higher remaining system won less than one third of average votes required for winning a seat. He highlighted the alternative solutions that require limiting the participation to the lists of political parties, and approve a representation threshold. He gave examples to the results that could have led to approving a representation threshold between 1-5%, and the list coalition as well as approving a method of calculating winning lists based on "De Haunt" averages instead of the higher remaining.
The presentation revealed a better competitiveness status for women; which resulted in two women winning seats in the local constituencies on a competitive basis; and the winning of a lady who heads a national list in addition to the seats of women quota. Women won lots of these with large numbers of votes that enabled them to obtain the highest rates at the governorate level compared with the number of voters in their constituencies. They also obtained the larger absolute numbers among the governorate constituencies.
Following this presentation, Engineer Abdul Hadi Al-Majali- President of the National Current Party presented a paper called "the Experience of Electoral Lists… Lessons and Conclusions" in which he pointed out that the Jordanian parliamentary life has deteriorated in Jordan; he attributed that to changing the electoral law upon which the 1989 elections were conducted and replacing it with the one-man-one-vote law since 1993. He explained that the parliaments have been characterized with members who could accede the parliament on an individual basis and that the overwhelming majority of them were elected by the tribe. They were elected according to their social weight; financial or political influence and not because of their intellectual or platform affiliation.
Al-Majali considered the national list as representing a substantial amendment to the previous electoral law as the idea of list has become a fact that cannot be defeated in the future. However, it is not within the context that can create a difference in the nature of the law especially when maintaining the one-man-one-vote law. Al-Majali explained that his idea about the national list being a "relatively substantial" amendment that this national list- in its current form- has not added nor taken away anything to/from the Jordanian parliamentary and political life.
Al-Majali voiced surprise with the method in which the Independent Commission of Elections calculated the votes that the national lists could yield and the method used in identifying the rate and share of each list from the parliamentary seats. He added that the national list had resulted in a parliamentary product that is almost identical with the product of individual constituencies. As an example, he mentioned that no real partisan or platform blocs appeared in the seventeenth House. According to Al-Majali, this is a dilemma when it comes to the "parliamentary government" concept. The working paper mentioned that the National Current Party perceived the national list crisis early when noticing that they reached 61 lists.
In his paper, Al-Majali disclosed an important issue when he said, "I am not disclosing a secret when I say that our review of the national list experience at the end of the parliamentary elections has concluded that our participation in the elections on the list basis has been wrong!". He added, " If we had concluded this before the elections, we could have changed our mind and refrained from joining the elections on the national list basis. We could have run for candidacy in the local individual constituencies only."
Al-Majali proposed to have the electoral law amended along with some of the executive regulations issued by the Independent Commission for Elections. He considered that this would be a relevant exit from the political "bottle-neck" and would open wide horizons for the national dialogue and consensus in order to put an end to the boycotting decision. He added that developing the electoral law will result in the creation of large partisan coalitions and blocs that can deliberate the government formation. Then, the parliamentary government concept with a partisan majority can be reached whist the minority would form a shadow government.
Following are the major recommendations concluded by the first session:
- The National List must be limited to political parties. If there is a constitutional impediment, it must be removed.
- The National List share must be increased to reach a rate of 40-50% of the overall number of the parliamentary seats.
- There must be a decisive rate such as the minimal votes for the National List in order to compete for the seats of lists.
- A vote must be added to the voter to have two votes in the individual local constituencies or to redistribute the constituencies so that each constituency can have one or two seats.
- Strong and effective mechanisms must be approved to combat political money as well as a clear mechanism to identify a ceiling for the electoral campaign expenses in order to ensure justice among competing candidates.
- Create the legislative and political environment convenient for developing the partisan and political life in the country so that it can become a feasible choice for citizens.
- Some recommendations called for approving an open (not closed) national list. However, representatives of parties prefer it closed to secure winning according to the order set for the candidates on list.
- Reduce the age of candidate for parliamentary elections from 30 to 25 years.
Session II: Analytical Readings in the Elections' Results (2)
MP Samir Oweis chaired the session. Mrs. Amal Haddadin- Legal Advisor of the National Forum for Women Affairs was the first speaker in the Session. She presented "A Reading in the Elections' Results from the Women Movement Perspective."
Mrs. Haddadin mentioned that 18 ladies won the parliamentary elections of 2013; for her, this does not reflect the progress that the Jordanian woman has achieved in all walks of life. However, the fact that three women have won without the woman quota reflects the importance of society awareness and the role that the women MPs assumed in the previous parliaments. She pointed out that whenever the seats of women quota are increased, women will be elected.
The Advisor mentioned that the national lists included two sub-lists with a lady heading each. However, there are 59 lists headed by men. Mrs. Haddadin was surprised with the low number of women heading national lists and the poor attendance of women on lists in general.
Mrs. Haddadin mentioned that the number of women quota seats used to be 12 in the previous parliament (out of 120 seats). It increased to become 15 seats in the current parliament (out of 150). She explained that the women quota rate is 10% in both cases out of the number of the parliament members. This means that the quota rate is still the same. She noted that the ladies who won on quota achieved low numbers; things have changed now and the votes they get are reasonable and encouraging.
Mrs. Haddading criticized the composition of the Independent Commission for Elections which is void of any woman. The voting and counting committees that the Commission created had only two ladies as heads out of 45 committees. Women members in those committees were limited to 13 only. However, the Commission has commended the role that those ladies assumed as heads and members of said committees.
- Increase the women representation rate through women quota to 20% at least.
- Invite ten MPs at least to propose a bill to support women into this directive.
After that, Mr. Taha Abbadi- General Coordinator to Observe the elections at the National Center for Human Rights presented a paper called "Lessons of Elections and the Reform Required for the Electoral Process." In the paper, Mr. Abbadi mentioned that in supervising and managing the elections, the Independent Commission for Elections has helped enhance hope among citizens to have free, decent, and transparent elections. The Commission exerted the efforts to achieve this goal. However, the electoral process has been, as a whole, exposed to imbalances that started with the registration process and issuance of electoral cards. In addition, some political forces boycotted the elections; which affected the process and procedures of the electoral process as a whole. The paper pointed out that the Commission tried to avoid gaps and failures during the overall electoral process. To this effect, it issued executive regulations to improve procedures of the electoral process in terms of: distributing voters at certain voting stations before hand, stopping the so-called illiterate and public voting, providing printed ballots for local constituencies with photos of candidates and another ballot for the general (national) constituency including numbers and codes of the national lists.
Mr. Abbadi mentioned that as the Commission did not directly managed and supervised registration of voters, the electoral lists were not accurate. Electoral cards were issued and delivered to people other than relatives as specified in the regulations. Some voters were registered without them showing up at the registration place. Cards were kept to the account of some candidates in addition to thousands of electoral cards remaining at the Civil Status Department.
Mr. Abbadi reiterated that the candidacy process was clear and smooth. All applications for candidacy were accepted in the local and national constituencies. The Independent Commission asked one of the lists to change its name only as it holds the name of a certain candidate per se. This took place actually when the Court of Appeal declined the contestation application by the authorized representative of the list to defend the decision of the Independent Commission.
Following are the main remarks of Mr. Abbadi in relation with the electoral advertisement phase:
  • The illegitimate use of the political funds in addition to procedures taken by the security organs and resolutions made by the Attorney General Department to arrest six candidates charged with offering money to influence the voters.
  • Some satellite channels and websites displayed ads outside the scheduled timeline.
  • Supervisors of electoral advertisement for a large number of candidates fixed the electoral publicity components in places other than those designated for them.
  • Many candidates and lists did not adhere with the financial disclosure requirement with regard to the sources of funding and the channels of spending on the electoral campaigns.
  • Electoral advertisement posters that belong to certain candidates were attacked by other candidates or by unknown people.

Al-Abbadi mentioned that the balloting process was regular and peaceful. The majority of committees adhered with the law and regulations of the voting procedures. However, some committees were more capable than others in terms of managing procedures of voting. Some notes in this respect include not observing the secret balloting, some heads and members of the electoral committees were not impartial. Some local cases of violence were observed in a number of electoral constituencies and electoral publicity forms were also noticed at the entrance gates of some balloting stations.
In terms of counting the votes and announcing preliminary results and although the balloting and counting committees in most of the stations were committed to the pertinent regulations, some observations were captured in relation with the operation of some committees. According to certain estimates, the media contributed to the confusion among people when the names of candidates were announced as winning the elections to discover at the end that they did.
  • Amend the Law of Elections to support the democratic and political pluralism directive as well as people's participation and justice of parliamentary representation according to the Constitution and in line with relevant international standards. The principles of the local electoral constituencies must be clear and explicit. The Law must identify the minimal rate to qualify a list to compete for the distribution of seats.
  • The role of law enforcement organs must be operationalized to help control electoral crimes; the electoral law must include provisions to prosecute electoral crime perpetrators. Penalizing such crimes must be prompt. A competent court must adjudicate such crimes to penalize perpetrators before the balloting day.
  • The Law must provide for the agencies that prepare the voters' lists to observe the international standards in this respect. The voters lists must be updated according to the law and in coordination with the Commission. All information related to the voter must be well and properly known; they must be clear and transparent. They must be organized in an accurate and user-friendly manner for easy access by the citizen or other stakeholders in due course of time.
  • Legal provisions must be made available to help the Independent Commission for Elections to set relevant financial ceilings for electoral campaigns. The use of funds in the electoral process must be regulated with the necessary legal requirements to secure equal opportunities for the candidates. The voter's will must be kept away from any influence; information transparency must be secured with regard to funding sources, their ceilings, and channels of spending. The electoral campaigns and advertisement must be stopped and all their aspects removed 48 hours before the balloting date subjected to penal responsibility.
  • Ballot boxes must be in line with the international standards in terms of transparency and solidity.
  • The relevant environment must be provided for the procedures of the balloting date to help voters to cast their votes smoothly to secure secret balloting. These conditions must be provided for people with special needs. The balloting and counting halls must be improved and representatives of candidates must be provided with full access to observe the balloting procedures smoothly and accurately. A relevant isolation must be provided in line with international standards to secure secrecy of balloting.
  • Enforce the legal texts with regard to public voting.
  • Develop a mechanism to add up votes that each candidate obtains and calculate them in a manner that guarantees accuracy and speed as well as enabling representatives of candidates and local/international observers to monitor.
  • Representatives of candidates must sing the reports (minutes) of balloting and counting; in case they refuse or fail to do so, it must be documented in the balloting report.
  • Realize equality among women winning the women quota by calculating the rate of votes they obtain out of total balloted votes in the governorate rather than their electoral constituency.
Session III: What Next? (1)
MP Atef Tarawneh chaired this session in which the Minister of Political Development and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs- Mr.Bassam Haddadin presented a working paper on "Parliamentary Governments- the Jordanian Experience."
At the beginning of his speech, the Minister commended the role of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies as it has succeeded in gathering the parliamentary, partisan, political, and media competent and leader figures in the Conference to discuss the "hot" file. For him, it is a good luck to have this center with its politicized management. The Center enables the creation of a trans-communication and dialogue circle among the several intellectual and political trends and attitudes whether in the governing body, in the opposition, or in between. He stressed that his presentation reflects his own personal opinion with regard to the Jordanian experience in terms of parliamentary governments.
He highlighted Article (35) of the Constitution of Jordan which reads: "The King appoints the Prime Minister and may dismiss him or accept his resignation. He appoints the Ministers; he also dismisses them or accepts their resignation, upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister." He added, the Constitutional norm in Britain provides for, "the Queen shall appoint the Premier to form the Government." He quoted excerpts from the constitutions of Belgium, Holland, Morocco, and Spain which provide for the same directive.
Haddadin explained that although the right to appoint the Premier is that of the King or Queen, yet political coalitions emerge in the parliament and these form the government and select its premier at the end of the day. He pointed out that there is a full merger in Britain between the legislative and executive branches as the majority of ministers are MPs.
Haddadin drew to the fact that the parliamentary government idea has recently emerged within the reformist discourse of the State which is, mainly, focused on constitutional amendments that helped enhance the parliament authority in terms of achieving equilibrium relation among the three branches. He stressed that the King initiated the idea of a parliamentary government within the reform context in parallel with the expression of a political will on several occasions. The King said that he would consult with the Lower House to select the Premier as well as announcing the "commitment to the outputs of the constitutional process and respect the majority opinion." Moreover, the right of opposition to be a genuine and active partner in the political process must be recognized. Mr. Haddadin reminded that the King has always mentioned that the declared reform steps are not the end of a process; it is a continuous process.
Minister of Political Development mentioned that there is no specific description of a parliamentary government in terms of the number of ministers who are MPs. He added that if we are to give an accurate definition of a parliamentary government, "it is the government the premier of which; its ministerial team, and platform that the parliament selects." As for details, it is all about a political controversy and conflict; it is about balances of power within the parliament and outside it.
Answering the question if the current parliament is qualified to form or create a parliamentary government, Haddadin said that the answer stems from the fact that we are dealing with an intellectual-political issue and balances of power. He called for dealing with this experience leniently and objectively to turn it into a success story and achieve further reforms.
The Minister- Haddadin mentioned that those opposing the idea of a parliamentary government repeat well-known pieces of information such as there are no associated political parties; the existing parliamentary blocs are loose and MPs move from one to another in line with their personal interests. It seems that they call on dismissing this experience; it is wrong to do that! The seventeenth Parliament must be given the opportunity required for it to perform and make its political will visible in this formula.
As for the capability of the seventeenth parliament to introduce such reforms, Haddadin considers that this experience needs to take its time as long as the parliament cannot become a model parliament with one single leap. He said that it is true that we do not like the one-man-one-vote electoral law. However, we need to admit that there are certain facts on the political ground that have started to influence the political and parliamentary game towards a positive direction. He added that our parliamentary experience in Jordan requires a long period of time to ripe. However, he expressed his conviction that the experience of the parliament in terms of consultation will cause a positive effect on the forthcoming government; its method of governance, and its role and giving.
The working paper included several recommendations; mainly:
  • Reform the rules and procedures (bylaw) of the Lower House so that it can well-regulate itself, manage its affairs, and express its political opinion explicitly, and manage its business in a democratic and transparent manner.
  • The electoral law (one-man-one-vote) must be reviewed to be more consensual.
  • The Lower House must be given the opportunity to implement the parliamentary government experience even it fails once or twice to do so. At the end of the day, it will achieve it.
Session IV: What Next? (2)
MP Yousef Al-Qurneh chaired the fourth session and Engineer Ali Abu AsSukkar- Head of the Shura Council of the Islamic Action Front Party presented a working paper called, "After boycotting the elections…. What next? The Islamic Movement point of view of the parliamentary government and themes of the coming period"
In his speech, Abu AsSukkar criticized the parliamentary elections and expressed several notes that he considers as weaknesses that caused the recent elections to be a replication of the previous parliaments. He pointed out that the one-man-one-vote system cannot result in a real parliament with blocs that are capable of introducing real platforms; elections took place in the absence of a national consensus on an electoral system.
Abu AsSukkar explained his scenario of the parliamentary government mentioning that it comprises the partisan majority in the parliamentary house. The majority rules and the minority opposes; he stressed that members of the Lower House ought not become ministers.
Abu AsSukkar considered the constitutional amendments to be introduced to achieve the parliamentary government must provide for the parliamentary majority with the right to recommend the name of the Premier to the King who, in turn, requests him to form the government. This way, a government with real platforms can emerge and exercise its constitutional mandate.
He pointed out that the parliamentary blocs that the seventeenth parliament formed were not according to platforms; members of those blocs lack common ideologies. He criticized the mechanism to form the government. For him, the deliberations before its formation were all about formalities. He stressed that the one-man-one-vote law is the real impediment in front of the emergence of parliamentary blocs with platforms.
He concluded with the vision of the Islamic Action Front scenario for the coming period; he summarized it as forming a national consensus government that receives a formal and popular acceptance and support. A government that exercises all authorities in accordance provisions of the Constitution. Then, this government will manage a comprehensive national dialogue under the King's auspices and with his guarantees. There must be real assurances that confirm a real desire to reform till reaching understandings in relation with the legislative amendments especially the constitutional ones related to forming a government with parliamentary majority. A guarantee should be secured to the effect of not dominating the powers of the Lower House by any other council (house). A just and fair electoral law must be created beyond the one-man-one-vote system to encourage the parties. Then, decent parliamentary elections will be held without any interference; and a government will be formed with a parliamentary majority.
Dr. Mousa Shteiwi- Director of the Strategic Studies Center in the University of Jordan presented the second working paper entitled: "A Tour on the Parliamentary Government Experiences and the Jordanian Model per se." He explained that the overall concept of a parliamentary government is to hold the government accountable before the parliament which gave it confidence. It takes its legitimacy from the Parliament. He pointed out that it is not necessary for such a government to have ministers who are members of the parliament.
In terms of the powers granted to the government and the parliament, Shteiwi mentioned that the parliament has the right to monitor and hold the government accountable; it can cause the government to resign. Still, and in order to secure balanced powers in some of the systems, the government can be given the power to dissolve the parliament. Powers to enact laws are almost equal between the parliament and the government. Most often, the initiative comes from the government.
Shteiwi presented three models of parliamentary governments; the first totally separates between the parliament and the government so that all members of the government come from outside the parliament. The second model combines the parliament and the government so that members of the government are from the parliament members. The third model, however, combines both the first and the second models.
Shteiwi presented the advantages and disadvantages of parliamentary governments and mentioned that among the advantages is the more flexible and smooth enactment of laws. In the majority of parliamentary systems, governments do not face any difficulty or opposition in terms of law enactment as they come from the parliamentary majority. Sometimes, the governments are faced with opposition from inside this majority. Other advantages, as Shteiwi mentioned, include availing opportunities for a wider scope of representation of small social groups such as ethnic and religious minorities or even small political parties that do not have a large number of parliamentary seats.
Disadvantages of parliamentary governments include, as per Shteiwi, the possible dominance by the majority party of the date to conduct elections, and lack of stability as the parliamentary government is formed of coalitions; which makes it difficult to pass many resolutions and hard to achieve the government stability.
As for the Jordanian experience, Shteiwi presented a historical background on the governments that the Kingdom has witnessed. He mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of the parliamentary government within the Jordanian experience. He pointed out that the advantages of the parliamentary government can be summarized with the deep political participation at the popular level in addition to attracting the largest number possible of political elites wishing to be involved in political participation and achieving the highest degree of political harmony between the government and the parliament.
Shteiwi considers that the disadvantages are reflected in the absence of the partisan characteristic from the governmental experiences in Jordan; which makes the government a target of the Premier dominance. He becomes the one who leads the governmental policy in all its forms- political, economic, and social.
Non-parliamentary governments have already shown several disadvantages including the poor governmental performance and the absence of political vision for such governments. This is because new standards have emerged and influenced the selection of ministers such as interests and favoritism. Therefore, governments live short as they are not formed by the parliament.
Shteiwi stressed the necessity to do a comprehensive review of regulatory legislation of the political operation especially the electoral law and the law of parties. It is essential to reform the bylaw of the Lower House so that it can provide for achieving the principle of group work related to the operation of blocs in addition to making use of the flexible constitution to reach to a parliamentary government.
- The creation of committees that include parties and socio-political groups away from the Lower House and the government. These must look into the electoral law with all its ingredients and approve it to be put for a people referendum.
- The parties must review their charters and platforms as well as the way they interact with the political scene
- Review the constitutional court file and the mechanism of its operation.
- The women quota must be an integral part of the general list.
- The parties and civil society organizations must be invited to do their role in raising awareness of the community in relation with politics.
Conclusion of the Conference:
In conclusion, Mr. Oraib Al-Rantawi-Director of Al-Quds Center thanked in name of the Center and its partners – Konrad Adanauer and the European Union all the participants including those who prepared the papers, lecturers, and chairs of sessions and discussants. He said that we will continue working on recommendations in order to make a step forward in two directions: first: enhancing partisan life and strengthening the role of political parties in Jordan through building their capacities or through reforming the legislative environment that regulates their work. Second, reform the electoral law and process till reaching a strong, plural, and partisan parliament that can embrace and produce the experience of strong parliamentary governments. A parliament that can lay the grounds for Jordanian norms of political, parties, and parliamentary work. He called on joint work to push forward in this direction.

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