Jordan Elections 2010
Cartoon by Omar Abdallat / (Candidate before and after Photoshop)

Take a quick drive through Amman’s 3rd electoral district, spanning from the extremely affluent Abdoun to the poor neighborhoods around Amman downtown, and supposedly the most “urban” part of the Kingdom.

Just a couple of days after the deadline for candidacy for the next general elections, every public place in Amman is overfilled with pictures of men (with the odd woman showing her face), on posters with the most bland electoral slogans you can imagine.

“Jordan for all and all for Jordan”
“Your candidate.. Engineer XYZ
“Without slogans!”
“Let your voice be loud”
“Let’s build the future”
“Your vote is a responsibility”
“Courage in speaking the truth”

To be fair, only two candidates’ communication caught my eye so far. Najati Al Shakhsheer says “Jordanians Together to Achieve Reform” with some other slogans that are about concrete issues (concerning freedom, women’s participation, equality in the right to get a university seat). Then there is Khaled Ramadan Awwad: “Citizenship. Equality. Security”. Both “reform” and “citizenship” actually mean something if you follow political developments in Jordan.

But, in fact, the most powerful posters on the street right now are those by the Ministry of Political development calling for women to vote and shaming the act of vote buying! Imagine that.

But other than that, these elections are a parade of faces, some with thick mustaches, some without (and almost no beards as the country’s largest organized political party, the Islamic Action Front/Muslim Brotherhood is boycotting the election).

There is a real, real danger that the next parliament will be copy of the one that HM King Abdullah dismissed.

But there are things I don’t understand. Any comments that help explain what is happening will be appreciated.

We all know that the conservative opinion of running these elections under the “one man one vote” law eventually won. And we all know that such law tends to cause people to vote for members of their tribe. And we know that many serious political parties in the country are boycotting this election because the electoral law was not reformed.

But what I don’t understand is this apparent timidity of the Jordanian society.

OK.. So the Islamists are boycotting. Isn’t this a chance for other groupings or even individuals with political ambitions to emerge?

Why don’t we get a group of young people, for example, who are concerned about university education, running for the election on that single issue, with provocative campaigning and out of the box slogans?

Why don’t we see any citizen action groups around issues that affect people’s livelihoods or environment?

Where is the Tomato Party to protest the rise in tomato (and other prices)?

Where is the Jobless Party?

Where is the guy running on behalf of taxi drivers (the Yellow party?).

Looking at the campaigning so far you’d think that we are a society without any issues, so politics is not needed. Elections are reduced to a contest of who has the most appealing face or thickest mustache!

Of course, society has issues. So why aren’t they represented in the posters out there?

And if they are represented in a less obvious manner (maybe in the talks that candidates give or the pamphlets they distribute), why is this a contest of individuals and not groups who work as teams and believe in organizing people for collective action?

I don’t know..

Maybe people do not believe in parliament as a means of governing the country, and that solving issues and defending interests is better left to individual pleading through tribal and other social networks. This would be a dangerous sign of lack of trust and engagement in the institutions of the state.

Or that Jordanian society has absolutely no will for team work and no mechanisms for producing community leaders. This would be a dangerous sign of apathy and disintegration.

The Third District of Amman is the most modern part of Jordan. Women work. There are rich and poor living side by side. There is a substantial middle class there. Professionals and intellectual live there. There are urban, social, commercial and political issues that affect our daily lives. Yet all we get is a competition of individuals, talking to us in bland and neutral statements.

I don’t understand us at all.







5 responses to “Elections 2010: political bankruptcy of Jordanian society?”

  1. imad Avatar

    ahmad you should run next time, seriously.
    you already spend more time than the average business person observing Jordan’s socioeconomic issues. you have a creative agency and a creative mind to campaign efffectively.

  2. Naser Avatar

    ppl lack trust in the government , ppl lack trust in the parliament, ppl vote for who feeds them more Mansaf and better knafeh. who cares about campaigns? ppl vote for “Wajaha”, the more faces of you in the street the more i’m convinced by you, just like a bad TV ad running over n over n over again until that one day u walk by that product and by it without knowing it. and it will be a bloody copy of last parliament if not worse.

  3. zeid AbuOdeh Avatar
    zeid AbuOdeh

    It’s be cause there’s no decent political parties plus a million other reasons

  4. Jordan Avatar

    Maybe if you went to the candidates’ events and speeches, you would understand what they stand for and what they support. I agree with the fact that some of the slogans that are being paraded all around the streets do not benefit anyone. Which is why some of the candidates have “no slogans”. If you were less cynical and maybe a bit more inquisitive you would see that all the issues you brought up are actually discussed and are on some of the candidates agendas. I don’t think the slogans are what make and break a candidate’s likelihood of succeeding in the elections. you need to look at the candidate’s history and what they’ve done and what influences they can have in the future. I think you should reconsider your position regarding this issue, and it’s people like us that need to believe in the fact that change IS possible and we should put our faith in the people that can make the biggest possible difference in our lives. We have a commitment as Jordanian citizens to want and do better for our country.

  5. 3aber sabeel Avatar
    3aber sabeel

    Ahmad – Agree with you on many issues discussed.

    Yet not sure why you don’t understand us when you yourself complain without taking action. I agree with Imad – RUN for elections and make a change.

    Naser – couldn’t agree more with you. I would only add: “fear of freedom of speech vs. consequences”