Jordan Parliamentary Elections: November 10, 2020

Counting votes during Jordan’s 2016 elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mohammad Hajeer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

KEY FACTS
Freedom House Rating

Partly Free
Government Type
Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Population
10.8 million
UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Local Elections
August 2021 (due)
Parliamentary Elections
November 2024 (due)
PAST ELECTIONS
Parliamentary Elections
November 10, 2020
Local Elections
August 15, 2017

Jordan is due to hold local elections in August 2021. These follow parliamentary elections that took place in November 2020, which had low turnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Political Context

Jordan is a monarchy and in general, the king exercises executive authority. King Abdullah II, the current monarch, is seen as a reformer and enjoys widespread popularity both in Jordan and internationally. He has encouraged a gradualist path toward greater democracy, and permitted more political space than some other monarchies in the region. Nonetheless, opposition figures and those who protest sometime do face arrest.

Jordan holds regular elections for the lower house of parliament and local councils. Abdullah has indicated a desire to move toward a political system based on parties that compete on their platforms,  but in practice, recent elections have been dominated by independent candidates who are tribal leaders or wealthy business people. Constantly-changing rules make it difficult for parties to compete.

In the 2016 parliamentary elections, whose turnout was 36 percent, 99 of the 130 seats went to independent candidates. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Jordanian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, won more seats than any other party, after having boycotted the previous two elections. The IAF ran on a reform platform, and partnered with non-Islamists, in an effort to broaden its appeal. Still, it won only 10 out of 130 seats (and its coalition partners won 5 seats). Furthermore, IAF did not compete in all of the electoral districts, and it won less than 12 percent of the vote in the districts where it did compete.

The 2020 Parliamentary Elections in Jordan

Jordan’s 2020 parliamentary elections saw low turnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters were not able to vote early or by absentee ballot. Therefore, some have described the polls as among the least democratic in Jordan’s recent history.

Women and Islamist candidates saw poor results. The IAF did not boycott, but nonetheless did not perform well.

Emerging Reform Movements

On the other hand, reform movements have emerged in student union and trade union elections. For example, in 2018 student union elections (which can serve as a barometer for national politics), a new reformist movement called Nashama (Gallantry), opposed to corruption and tribalism, won more seats than the Islamists.

Geopolitical Context

Jordan has hard-won and potentially fragile stability. The government has close ties with the United States and the Gulf States. Jordan has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994 (prior to that, the two countries had been in a state of war for 46 years). However, recent Israeli plans to annex the West Bank have led to tension, which could have region-wide implications.

Curated News and Analysis

Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor (February 10, 2021): King’s call to revisit political reforms triggers cautious optimism in Jordan

Lyse Mauvais, Al-Monitor (January 31, 2021): Campaign trash makes statement on waste, politics in Amman exhibit

Kristen Kao and E.J. Karmel, Washington Post (November 20, 2020): The pandemic compromised Jordan’s parliamentary elections

Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor (November 12, 2020): Voter apathy, pandemic result in low turnout, riots in Jordanian election

AFP (November 12, 2020): Jordanian parliamentary elections see women, Islamists lose out

Nicole Robinson, Heritage Foundation (November 10, 2020): Jordanians Head to the Polls Amid Mounting Economic and Health Crisis

Al Jazeera (November 8, 2020): Jordan’s elections explained in 500 words

Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor (October 1, 2020): Islamists gear up for elections in Jordan amid widespread voter apathy

Taylor Luck, The National (September 27, 2020): Jordan prepares for elections amid anger over Covid-19 missteps

Sean Yom and Wael Al-Khatib, Washington Post’s Monkey Cage (May 17, 2018): Islamists are losing support in Jordan

Kristen Kao, Washington Post’s Monkey Cage (October 3, 2016): How Jordan’s election revealed enduring weaknesses in its political system

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here

Updated February 17, 2021

 

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