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Why did they not vote?

Sep 04,2017 - Last updated at Sep 04,2017

A big question asked by most Jordanians was why Jordanians of Palestinian origin had a poor participation in the July decentralisation and municipal elections?

The social media were ablaze last week with comments on the debate that was held at the invitation of MP Tarek Khoury and attended by two ex-prime ministers, Taher Al Masri and Abdur Raou’f Al Rawabdeh.

One of the attendees talked about the “ruling gang”, which caused both former prime ministers to react with furious assertiveness that they were part of that “gang”, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Irrespective of the ugliness, or beauty, such a debate stirred, it is a very pertinent question.

Statistics on the July elections show that only 20 per cent of the adult residents of Amman and Zarka actually voted.

The percentage of Jordanians of Palestinian origin in these two towns is high. 

By not voting, this population segment caused the percentage of actual voters to drop to 20 per cent, as compared to the 31 per cent national average.

The lethargy demonstrated by Jordanians of Palestinian origin has a number of reasons. One is their belief that to succeed, you need a big tribal or family backing.

Since Jordanians in camps or in big cities do not see big family as their backdrop social unit, they refrain from participating.

In some cases, they prefer to vote for an East Bank Jordanian because he can serve them better through his connections.

Second, Palestinian Jordanians occupy a very small percentage of government jobs.

Those who come from the city of Hebron or from Gaza rarely seek government jobs. They are very active in the business and private sector institutions. To seek a government job is synonymous to spending a life on minimum income. 

This ethnic division of labour is another cause of lack of interest.

A third cause, is the dubious belief that elections are not fully transparent. Eventually, those who are destined to win are those with connections with the right authorities.

Although the government has worked very hard to ensure the transparency and integrity of the voting process, many Jordanians believe that the outcome is always tampered with.

Such a misimpression is strengthened by the claims and protestations of the also-rans who refuse to admit loss on merit grounds. 

H.M. King Abdullah highlighted the importance of electing effective representatives who would ensure the creation of effective ministers.

This whole continuum depends on how an effective citizen exercises and effects his duties.

The failure to create effective parties that would pique the fancy of Jordan’s youth is another element that casts a shadow over the election process.

Young people refrain from active political participation because they cannot connect with the older politicians and leaders of dysfunctional political parties.

The differences among the existing 40-odd parties are barely noticeable. Moreover, the content, context and conduits of communication with youth are archaic and do not rank up to the youth’s expectations.

Until we resolve such issues convincingly, political parties will not replace tribes as the basic political unit.



The writer is a former Royal Court chief, deputy prime minister and member of Senate. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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