The polls have closed for Jordan’s elections. And though final results aren’t yet in, figures for turnout are here. And they don’t look great.
Across Jordan, 37% of voters – that’s around 15% of the total population – cast a ballot – way down from the 56% that voted in the last election.
The area with the lowest turnout was Amman, the capital, where just 23.5% of voters attended the elections.
These elections were meant to be “historic”, according to Jordan’s government spokesperson Mohamad Momani. A new elections law had been introduced to encourage the participation of political parties, and Islamist groups were participating after long boycotts. So what’s going wrong?
Even before the elections, commentators had warned turnout would be low. Jordan doesn’t have a strong history of parliamentary politics or parties: in a poll just before the election, just 1% of the population said they’d vote for a candidate based on political affiliation. Many more said they’d vote because they’d receive a service, or because of tribal affiliation.
Parliament’s powers are limited too, so people don’t have much faith in it holding the government to account. Recently, the King extended his powers to make appointments, and Parliament failed to pick a prime minister of their choice, despite being given the opportunity.
Jordan isn’t totally apathetic: on the day of the elections, riots broke out in several areas. But electoral politics may still have a struggle ahead of it in this important Middle Eastern state.
King Abdullah II of Jordan wrote several royal decrees in the form of 3 letters this week, replacing the Chief of the army in addition to an order to restructure the Jordanian army, citing increased terrorism threats as a justification.
A royal decree was first issued on Sunday appointing Major General Mahmoud Freihat as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to Jordan’s state-run Petra News Agency. This first letter also included specific requests from the King to “modernize and advance” the country’s armed forces by restructuring the General Command, increasing levels of coordination between security agencies, upgrading the capabilities of the border guards, and more, the agency noted.
The Jordan Times reported on the royal decrees as well.
Repeatedly throughout the letter, Abdullah II makes references to terrorism stating that, “the war on terror is foremost our war”. He further says that Jordan must confront it on various levels.
The King’s second letter was to the outgoing chairman and military advisor, General Mashal Al Zaben, instructing him to retire to a new position. This letter praises Zaben’s extensive military service and devotion to the country.
A third letter, this time written by Freihat, was in response to the King’s letters. The new Chairman pledged to fulfill the royal orders requested of him.
The reforms come at an important time for Jordan. Jordan is currently holding at least 70,000 refugees near the border with Syria, citing security concerns. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, King Abdullah II discussed the aforementioned refugee issue as well as frustration with Western allies.
Further, there have been several attacks on Jordanian security forces from militants believed to be inspired by Daesh/Islamic State. However, no major attacks have occurred since the Amman hotel bombings of 2005.
Fifty-one deputies attended the 45th parliamentary session, whereas 35 more were needed for a quorum, according to the parliament's Speaker Nabih Berri.
Lebanon has been without the head of a state since 2014, when the term of then-President Michel Suleiman expired. The dispute of political forces over candidates remains the reason for the presidential crisis. There are two main candidates for the post — former Lebanese Army Commander Michel Aoun and West-oriented politician Suleiman Frangieh.