AMMAN –– Thousands of activists hit the streets on Friday calling for a “democratic” elections law, an end to the one-person, one-vote formula and stepped-up efforts to fight corruption.
The elections law, ratified by a Royal decree on Thursday, will be debated by Parliament as of the beginning of July in a bid to increase the number of Lower House seats allocated for the national list, set in the law at 12 per cent of the 140-member chamber. Under the current formula of the law, candidates can have two votes, one at their district level and one at the national level intended to encourage political parties work in Parliament.
Leftists, Islamists, nationalists and independent activists rallied in a series of protests stretching from Irbid to Maan calling for an end to the one-person, one-vote electoral system and the resignation of the Fayez Tarawneh government for a recent raise in electricity and fuel prices.
In a so-called Friday “the people’s will has won,” some 2,000 activists marched in an Islamist-led rally in downtown Amman, calling for fighting corruption and a “democratic” elections law.
During the one-hour rally, which featured the participation of leftist and nationalist activists, protesters called for the formation of a “national salvation government”, chanting “from Ramtha to Maan, the people’s anger is everywhere.”
Leaders of the Islamist movement pledged to continue their protests in order to pressure the Parliament to produce a “democratic” elections law, expressing a lack of faith in lawmakers’ ability to overhaul a legislation they describe as the “foundation” for Jordan’s political future.
“What is at stake is not just one election, it is future elections and the formation of governments that represent the people and respond to their will,” Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, told The Jordan Times.
“If the government and the Parliament believe they can ignore the people’s will a second time, then they haven’t learned the lessons of the Arab Spring.”
Also during the one-hour rally, participants hailed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi’s recent victory in his country’s presidential elections, chanting “free Egypt, this is what victory looks like.”
Meanwhile, youth and tribal activists rallied in cities and villages in seven governorates against rising prices and what they described as decision-makers “lack of will” for political reform.
In a series of protests organised by grassroots popular movement under the banner “no to the elections law, no to rising prices,” thousands of citizens hit the streets in Irbid, Salt, Madaba, Theiban, Karak, Tafileh, Maan, Shobak, Ajloun and Jerash in a bid to pressure decision makers to follow through on political reform pledges.
During the rallies, activists called for the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of the Tarawneh government for what they claim as “protecting the corrupt at the expense of citizens.”
Friday marked the second straight week of protests over the election law, which started within hours of the legislation’s passage by the Lower House earlier this month.
Various political groups and observers oppose the law for maintaining a one-person, one-vote electoral system they claim has produced a series of “rubber stamp” parliaments and restricted the representation of political parties.
Activists also object to an article in the law allocating 12 per cent of the Lower House’s 140 seats through proportional representation at the national level - well short of the 50 per cent proposed by political parties.
King Abdullah on Thursday asked Parliament to revise the law and increase seats allocated for the national list.
Political parties, professional associations, popular movements and even tribes had announced their intention to forgo the polls if held under the current legislation, entering advanced talks over a nationwide boycott campaign.
Although the King’s decision to return the law for amendments has halted their boycott drive, political parties and popular movements have pledged to carry out their boycott threats should lawmakers fail to make “dramatic changes” to the law and scrap the one-vote electoral system.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest political force and the most vocal critic of the legislation, suspended its planned announcement to forgo the polls, delaying their decision until after the outcomes of the amendments.
Activists have expressed hope that the controversial legislation and public anger over rising prices would boost support for their 17-month-old protest movement.
However, Friday’s protests were marked by a lack of unity between political parties and popular movements, in a sign that the highly fractured protest drive continues to suffer from the lack of coordination that has prevented activists from gaining support among average Jordanians.