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Workshop Jordanian Political Parties' Draft Law

Summary Report
Al-Quds Center for Political Studies organized a workshop on Dec.19th 2006 addressing the "draft law of political parties in Jordan" at the Radisson SAS hotel. The workshop enjoyed a good representation of Jordanian intellectual and political figures. The Jordanian government was represented by His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Al-Oran, minister of Political Development and whose ministry is expected to redraft some of the law's articles that have drawn criticism and caused dissatisfaction.
It was noted that the level of parliamentarian participation was below expectation as only ten members of Parliament attended despite the invitation being extended to all members of Parliament and confirmation of attendence from 30 members.

The total number of participants exceeded sixty. Among these were H.E Laila Sharaf, member of the "Senate", and former prime minister H.E. Taher Al-Masri in addition to a number of political figures expected to run in the upcoming parliamentarian election. A number of political party leaders attended among which were three leading members of the Islamic Action Front representing the governorates of Amman, Zarqa and Irbid as well as some media and civil society activists.

The Participating Political Parties:
The Islamic Action Front (Jabhat Al-'amal Al-Islami), National Constitutional Party (Al-Hizb Al-Watani Adusstori), Jordanian Communist Party (Al-Hizb Ashio'i Al-Ordoni), Covenant Party (Hizb Al-Ahed), Jordanian Generations Party (Hizb Al-Ajyal), Jordanian Justice and Development Party (Hizb Al-Adala Watannia), Islamic Centrist Party (Hizb Al-Wassat Al-Islami), Welfare Party of Jordan (Hizb Al-Rafah), Mission Party (Hizb Al-Rissala), Jordanian Renaissance Party (Hizb Al-Nahdah), The Jordanian Green Party (Hizb Al-Khodor Al-Ordoni) and the Arab Land Party (Hizb Al-Ardh Al-Arabia)

Primary Articles Subject to Controversy and the Related Recommendation- Article "2"; relates to the linkage of political parties to the Ministry of Interior.

The participants were unanimous in rejecting the Ministry of Interior as being the authoritative reference for political parties, instead, the majority agreed instead on the Ministry of Justice, while others suggested the Ministry of Political Development.

- Article "3", clause "A"; related to the "Definition of a Party".

Participants agreed to add the following to the parties' definition; "the goal of any party is to reach and to participate in authority ".

- Article "3", clause "B"; is concerned with "the establishment of political parties should not be based on class, race, or sect".

Some participants argued with the details of this article and felt that only the first part of it should be adopted, which states that parties should be established on the basis of citizenship only and that there should be no impediment to establishing parties that aim to defend the rights of certain categories such as laborors, farmers, or parties of religious backgrounds. The participants representing the Islamic Action Front considered these details as being directed negatively at them.

- Article "4", clause "A"; the right of Jordanians to join political parties.

Most of the participants blieve that the Jordanian government does not implement these rights practically, citing restrictions and harassment of citizens associated with the political parties–especially- by Government employees. The attendants appealed to the Jordanian Government to undertake more efforts in helping to eliminate citizens' historic stigma of being related to the political parties. The participants also called upon Ministry of Political Development to adopt a promotional campaign publicizing political parties as patriotic establishments.

- Article "5", clause "A", related to the required number of founding members of political parties and their place of residency.

Some of the participants objected to stipulating a specific number of founding members at the very beginning of party establishment, and felt that it should be left to the popularity of the party itself and to peoples' beliefs, as shown by their judgment at the ballot box.

- Article "6", clause "C1" (from the same article) related to the Party's 'Memorandum of Association' and the obligation by each party to hold a general assembly conference or its equivalent on a periodic basis according to the internal provisions of the party, on the condition that the period between conferences does not exceed two years.

The participants considered this issue as government interference in parties' internal affairs. They believed that the government should not have a supervisory role on individual party policy and principles; they also called for an extension of the period of time between consecutive general assembly conferences.

- Article "16", relates to expression of parties' principles and views in accordance with the conditions provided for in the applicable Press and Publications Law.

The participants requested that the party releases should not be connected to the "rules of press and publication Law".

- Article "19", related to financial assistance to political parties through the Treasury Department.

The majority of the participants suggested that subsidies should be equally distributed among all parties and in addition that the stipulated subsidy should be linked to the percentage of women and youth in the party, and its representation in the parliament. A few participants objected to the principal financial aid from the government arguing that it may be used as a tool for extortion and interference. All participants agreed that the "the parties' law should address and organize the issue of financial assistance".

- Article "22", clause "H", relates to the organizational or financial ties of Jordanian parties with any non-Jordanian body.

All participants agreed on the principal that Jordanian political parties must not be financially and administratively connected to non-Jordanian parties, though should retain good relations and cooperation with friendly and brother parties all round the world.

- Article "22", clause "Z"; states that parties should abstain from interference in the affairs of other countries', or damaging and disturbing the political relations of the Kingdom with other countries, as well as with foreign organizations and associations.

The majority of participants supported the above statement, provided that it does not deprive parties from their right of freedom of speech in expressig their viewpoint and thoughts towards other countries' policies.

General Remarks and Recommendations Regarding the New Law: 

1- The participants demanded "that the new draft law should include expressions explaining the role of the political parties in the government and the rotation of authority."

2- The participants appealed to the decision-maker to refer to the recommendations made by the Jordan First Commission, the National Agenda and Kollona el Ordon "We are All Jordan" commission concerning Political Parties Law and which have been agreed upon by most political parties of Jordan. All of which was agreed upon by the different political parties and forces.

3- The participants requested that new parties' law should be in accordance with the Jordanian constitution, social politics and civil rights and with international agreements. Moreover, it should deal with parties as representing a fundamental pillar for political development in the country.

4- The participants considered that a fundamental element political party growth in Jordan should come as a result of working towards the development of an electoral law that grants party lists the opportunity to participate in elections. In addition to evolving a set of rules related to public activity such as the law for public gathering, the municipalities, and the press & publications' laws.

5- The members of parliament participating in the workshop called for the forming of a committee that includes representatives of civil society organization and political parties. The committee shall work towards drafting of a document to be agreed upon by all political parties and then represent it to the Chairman of the House of Deputies and to the legal committee of the parliament. This document shall explain the political parties' reservations regarding the draft law prior to discussing it inside in parliament.

6- A suggestion was made to adopting the parties' draft law presented by Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in 2004 as a referential document.

The participants concluded that the new law requires the government to act in good faith with a genuine wish to see political development and reform, while partisan development is seen as the way and reformation from the government, as the party development is way of ridding Jordan of sectarian, nepotism and tribal associations.

Media Coverage: Al Ghad Newspaper, Al arabalyawm,  Al Hadth