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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

What Did Jordan’s Parliamentary Elections Show?

Filed under: Jordan, Palestinians

What Did Jordan’s Parliamentary Elections Show?
Jordan’s Get Out the Vote campaign logos.

Parliamentary elections were held in Jordan on November 10, 2020, which were marked by Palestinian indifference, the awakening of the Bedouin periphery with an emphasis on the young Bedouin generation, and a crisis between the Government administration and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The overall turnout was 1,386,749 voters, or 30 percent, with a relatively large vote in the periphery communities, But in major cities such as Amman, where the Palestinian public is located, turnout was very low, perhaps at an unprecedented low. (Overall voter turnout in 2016 reached 36%.)

Of course, one can attribute the low voter turnout to the Covid19 virus, but the Bedouin youth cared and came out to vote, while the urban Palestinians remained indifferent.

In the person-on-the-street polling done by the Jordanian press, it was clear that only one thing interested the youth: the economic and social situation. Not political solutions, not Jerusalem, nothing. Just economics. The new Jordanian parliament will be measured by the solutions it finds to the social and economic distress and the horizon it will present to the younger generation.

The Arab Spring broke out in 2010 because of a refusal to issue to a despairing young man a license for a market stand license in some unknown Tunisian town. The ensuing Arab storms failed. Will pressure in the polls result in a different outcome?

Why the Palestinian Indifference?

It is not certain. It should be noted that participation in the elections on the periphery was high against the slump in cities, but in absolute numbers, it was also still very low. A democratic spirit is not sweeping Jordan. A poll taken by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan showed that “nearly 80 percent of Jordanians do not trust the House of Representatives.”1

Why didn’t the Palestinians participate in the elections? Their “street smarts” tells them that stability that brings them personal security is preferable over democracy. They also prefer not to stick out in the Jordanian parliament to avoid challenging the Bedouins, who see Jordan as their home and the Palestinians as guests. Similar “street smarts” we find in east Jerusalem. Palestinians in east Jerusalem say life is right for them in Israel, but they do not want “democratic rights” so as not to annoy the Israelis. Life is right for them the way they are.

Enter the Muslim Brotherhood

What is more interesting is what is happening between the Hashemites and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the eve of the elections, a Jordanian court disqualified the registration of the Muslim Brotherhood as a party. This resulted in internal consultations, and in the end, the Brotherhood announced that they would participate in the elections anyway. Like all other candidates, their candidates would run as individuals rather than within a partisan framework.

Muslim Brotherhood demonstration in Jordan in 2019
Muslim Brotherhood demonstration in Jordan last year (Twitter)

The worsening of relations between the Hashemite administration and the Brotherhood is very critical because on this matter: Jordan has a fundamental disagreement with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The two countries see the Muslim Brotherhood as an avowed enemy, but Jordan has a historical alliance with them. They control the Waqf [religious affairs] office, which is vital to Jordan for maintaining its guardianship of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Therefore, the rift between the Jordanian Administration and the Brotherhood should not be expected, but Amman probably understands that to receive the financial assistance for its frustrated youth, Jordan will have to listen carefully to what its wealthy neighbors want.

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