AMMAN — The actual success of the January 23 parliamentary elections hinges on whether ongoing interactions between all political powers within the Kingdom could lead to further meaningful reforms, the Carter Centre Study Mission has found.

In its report on 2013 parliamentary elections, the centre said that the polls “yielded important technical advances”, praising the Independent Elections Commission’s (IEC) work, calling it “a strong foundation upon which to build”.

“The commission introduced several important procedural steps to safeguard ballot secrecy, improve electoral administration and promote transparency by ensuring broad access for political stakeholders, domestic citizen observer groups and international observers.”

However, the report suggested that key steps should be taken to institutionalise the commission’s independence, such as budgetary autonomy and expanded staff capacity.

The mission was composed of a small team of analysts who assessed a number of key issues, including the electoral system, election administration and dispute resolution process.

The centre, however, said that its mission was limited in scope, as it did not include observer teams and did not provide a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process as a whole.

The mission has found that a successful democratic transition, which is “consistent with goals outlined by His Majesty King Abdullah”, needs to include all actors, including the parliament, the King and political parties.

On the downside

The report said that the elections were “marred by a system that limits equality of suffrage and by persistent concerns about vote buying, proxy registration and other problems”.

Criticising the current electoral system, the report claimed that it suffers from significant malapportionment of the electoral districts and favours rural areas over more oppositional, urban areas.

“The problem is compounded by the use of the single non-transferable vote system in the multi-member districts, which exacerbates the inequality of suffrage. Political reforms for the 2013 elections, including the introduction of seats elected via proportional representation (about 18 per cent of the total seats), has done little to address this problem.”

Recommendations

In its recommendations for improving future elections and strengthening the country’s ongoing reform process, the report suggested establishing constitutional changes to reinforce parliamentary powers, create an equitable electoral system, increase women’s participation in the parliament and the Cabinet, and strengthen political parties.

The report recommended that stronger safeguards be put in place to address persistent problems of vote buying and tribal/family politics in the Jordanian political system.

The recommendations also included strengthening campaign finance laws, ensuring effective enforcement of campaign violations, particularly to reduce vote buying, the use of state symbols in campaigns and campaigning on election day.

Elimination of family registration, continued assigning of voters to a specific polling station, and clear definition of procedures for announcement of results were also included in the report’s recommendations.