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Workshop: Dialogue for Encouraging Participation and Reducing Abstention - Irbid
  • Al Kofahi: Massive participation is the only choice for countering attempts to obstruct the path of reform.

  • Owais: It is necessary to separate tribalism and religion from political action.

  • Al Rantawi: Either engaging in massive participation, or remaining in the squares of despair and unproductive complaints.

Al Quds Center for Political Studies continues its activities as part of its nationwide campaign to stimulate political participation and reduce abstention, having organized a workshop under this very title at Al-Jalil Club in Irbid, with the participation of more than 60 partisan and local community leaders and activists from the region.

The Mayor of the Greater Irbid Municipality, Dr Nabil Al-Kofhi, who is also a founding member of the National Coalition Party, delivered an address during the workshop. In his intervention, he underlined the importance of the political participation of the public in a number of different ways, urging young people in particular to join political parties, regardless of their political differences and orientations. He said only a strong political participation is capable of thwarting the efforts of those seeking to obstruct the path of modernization, who have no interest in stimulating democratic change in Jordan. In his speech, Al-Kofhi also criticized the practices of some state authorities, stressing that there are some who have an interest in continuing the status quo and not moving forward with reforms. He called on the citizens to seize this opportunity to participate in order to derail any attempts to squander the opportunity, noting that often political practice seeks to divide and fragment the public to weaken their power. He particularly stressed the negative impact that the new cybercrime law has had on public confidence in the seriousness of plans to modernize the political system. From his experience as mayor of Greater Irbid, he cited the little administrative and financial autonomy that municipalities have, which he attributed to the presence of entities who have no interest in pushing the wheel of reform, and instead maintain the status quo. Al-Kofhi said that reform is a collective interest, not an individual one, calling for maximizing the share of political parties, as they are one of the frameworks capable of managing the electoral process. He has also called on the parties to renew their programs and plans to reach all regions and to create positions that attract the youth and all segments of society. Al-Kofhi also emphasized the role of the media and its national responsibility in addressing the issues regarding participation.

Engineer Samir Owais, the former deputy and member of the Coordinating Committee of the Civil Democratic Party (currently in the process of establishment), referred in his talk to the large disparity in voting rates between regions, acknowledging a need for stimulating participation in order to address the imbalance in turnout rates and the need to encourage the dissatisfied majority to participate. He has also emphasized the important link between participation in the Jordanian political life and the support for the Palestinian cause, calling for the widest possible participation in the political process on the grounds that supporting Jordan is supporting Palestine. He dispelled the impression that national and local issues do not receive sufficient attention from most Jordanians, blaming the sides involved in the political process for the weak state of mobilization. On the level of the Civil Democratic Party (currently under establishment), Owais indicated that the term "civilian" describes the direction needed to be taken for crisis-solvin.,calling for the separation of tribalism from political action. He has urged for a separation of tribalism from political action and for divesting religion from politics, also pointing out that his party has formed nearly 40 committees in all regions, and is developing its programs and plans within its terms of reference. The party is expected to hold a general conference next October.

The Director of Al Quds Center for Political Studies, Mr Oraib Al-Rantawi, welcomed the participants, and in his opening speech he touched on the decline in electoral turnout. He said that a low turnout rate does not make parliament lose its legal and constitutional legitimacy, but it does impact the integrity of its public representation, as well as weakening the status of parliament in our political system. Al-Rantawi attributed political abstention to several reasons, including a decline in trust towards the official institutions of government, parliament, as well as political parties, noting that this gap in trust has widened year after year, and successive governments are to blame. He also stressed that the upcoming elections will be a major point of juncture and a test of seriousness, intentions, and orientations.

The participants’ contributions and questions centered around the role of the political parties and the positions they took regarding the cybercrime law and their mechanisms of action towards the law after its approval. The attendees also stressed the importance of the media in raising awareness for stronger participation and integrating MPs into meetings with local communities to expand the circle of discussion and dialogue. The participants also asked about the mechanisms for reconciling the freedom of expression under the Cybercrime Law and promoting political participation. Moreover they appealed to the political parties to form coalitions and mergers to be able to achieve the results they desire in the upcoming elections in order to enhance the citizens' confidence in the legitimacy of partisan work, and its preeminence over narrow and selfish personal impulses and interests.

The workshop aimed to provide a space for dialogue between political parties and the local community in Irbid, in addition to identifying mechanisms for political parties to reach their bases and prepare for the 2024 elections. It also sought to understand developments in the partisan scene and the extent of public engagement with the active mobilization that has resulted from the outputs of the Royal Commission to Modernize the Political System, with the goal to spread partisan culture, encourage citizens to join political parties, and increase electoral turnout.