AMMAN — Due to the immediate need to address economic conditions and the uncertainty of the Arab Spring’s aftermath in other states, serious political discourse is almost absent from the slogans and campaigns of some 1,000 candidates, observers said on Sunday.
With nearly two weeks left for parliament hopefuls to attract more support in the January 23 vote, observers said the candidates’ slogans and agendas are shaped by citizens’ growing concerns over their economic situation and declining interest in regional issues.
“The outcomes of the Arab Spring in other states, particularly the violence that has been taking place in Syria for nearly two years, made the people uncertain about their priorities,” former media minister Nabil Sharif told The Jordan Times.
“People are now more worried about their day-to-day livelihood and local community affairs,” he added, noting that candidates have noticed this trend and are seeking to address it in their campaign slogans.
“Their programmes mostly stick to generalities rather than proposing practical solutions to popular concerns over the future,” Sharif said, adding that the candidates are taking advantage of the economic needs of the public by only offering them promises to address their immediate needs, despite the challenges facing the national economy at large.
From his point of view, Bassam Badarin, a political analyst and Jordan correspondent of the UK-based Al Quds Al Arabi daily, told The Jordan Times that there is almost no substantial political content in the slogans and programmes that candidates are trying to sell to the voter community.
“There are no slogans that can actually be subject to evaluation and discussion, and the reason is clear; it is the absence of veteran political candidates,” Badarin said.
“I say with utmost frustration that the content of the banners and posters posted on almost every tree and electricity pole across the Kingdom is absurd and ridiculous, with most of the candidates appealing to individual needs rather than addressing national interests,” the analyst said.
“The elections are being held amidst dismay by several political parties and individuals who have decided to boycott the elections. This opened the door to less experienced figures and businessmen who have taken the lead in the race to parliament,” Badarin noted.
In his column in The Daily Star, Rami Khouri wrote that “the slogans provide a fascinating window into the minds of candidates, and through them into the mindsets of the citizenry, judging by how candidates emphasise issues that they believe voters care about”.
In an article published Saturday on the Lebanon-based newspaper’s website, Khouri said the candidates’ slogans reveal a few dominant themes that capture the mood in the country, and probably in other Arab countries.
“These include affirmations of the right to speak out and shape national policies; a massive demand for (unspecified) ‘reform’ and ‘change’; a desire for Jordanian national unity and cohesion; greater freedom, democracy and dignity; broader citizen rights; social justice; women’s rights; free media; hostility to corruption; support for the Palestine issue; and a prevalent call for citizens to participate in elections and public life if they want to bring about real change,” the former chief editor of The Jordan Times wrote.
Running as a member of a national ticket, columnist Sami Zubeidi said candidate slogans mainly address loyalists who are pro-elections.
“The Arab Spring was the driving force behind the demonstrations in several Arab countries including Jordan. The demands were focused on the economic aspect and living conditions of the people. The Palestinian issue is still present but it is not among voters’ priorities,” he added.
Hence, he argued, no candidate is willing to get involved in sensitive topics that do not serve his or her interest and do not attract votes.