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Restoring public trust in political parties

Oct 06,2021 - Last updated at Oct 06,2021

This week, the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System concluded its work by presenting its recommendations to His Majesty King Abdullah, with the hope that the committee's recommendations would live up to the King's and Jordanians' ambitions. The Royal Committee was tasked from the outset with drafting a new law governing political parties, believing in the critical role that parties must play in Jordanian politics and enabling them to form or participate in partisan parliamentary governments, as stipulated in Article 35 of the constitution, as well as ensuring the parties' contribution to consolidating organized collective action. 

The Royal Committee's concurrent work on electoral laws and parties resulted in the creation of party-friendly legislation that encourages youth and women to participate in politics. It is well established that democracy entails the transformation of individual demands into collaborative action plans that include realistic and practical proposals that contribute to the country's progress.

As is widely recognised, the youth sector is vital to Jordan's political reform and overall development. According to the latest demographic data from the Higher Population Council, there will be 2.6 million young people aged 12-30 in 2020 and 2.9 million by 2030. As a result, any political reform plan or roadmap that does not place a premium on youth empowerment will face significant implementation challenges. Without the active participation of young people, no political party in this country would be successful. Thus, the draft law affirmed students' rights to participate in partisan activities at universities and safeguarded them against discrimination based on their political affiliation or activity, with the right to challenge any unjust procedure in competent courts or seeking material and moral compensation.

Citizenship, equality, and respect for political pluralism are central to what partisan work in Jordan requires restoring citizen confidence in parties and political work generally. The draft law requires a total of 300 written applications for affiliation in order for the party to be registered, as well as ensuring that the party's registration process is transparent. To encourage parties to progress to the stage of becoming programmatic and establishing a mass base, the draft law creates new requirements for holding the party conference, which must occur within a year of meeting the requirements and submitting them to the registrar. The founding conference must include a majority of party members from among the 1,000 founders, at least 30 founders from at least six governorates, 20 per cent women, 20 per cent youth, and at least one person with special needs. This party is granted "under establishment" status, which entitles it to conduct political and promotional activities in support of its principles and to recruit members.

During the founding conference, the party adopts its internal rules and regulations, and elects the executive leadership, and the party is then required to file a set of documents with the parties’ register, including the conference's decisions and the names of the executive leadership and elected committees. As a result, the commissioner of the registry must issue a licensing decision within seven days of receiving notice of the convening of the party’s conference; if the registry does not issue a licensing decision within that time period, the party is considered registered and licensed in accordance with the law.

To facilitate party work, the draft law established a “Political Parties Registry” within the Independent Election Commission and abolished the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs' Parties Affairs Committee. Additionally, the law established appropriate controls over the registry's work to prevent it from superseding the parties, limiting the registry's role to monitoring certain party-related procedures, such as maintaining and updating records, receiving parties’ registration requests, and ensuring parties’ meetings are held. The new law also safeguards the party's legal rights by protecting its headquarters, documents, correspondence and means of communication from raids, seizures, or surveillance, and by stipulating that none of the aforementioned acts would occur except upon a court order and in the presence of a representative of the affected party.

The draft law also allows parties to establish study centres that are in line with its objectives. In keeping with modern communication and technological advancements, the law also encourages parties to vote on internal decisions and convene online meetings of their various leadership bodies and committees, and electronic membership is now possible. Parties will have less paperwork and more freedom to use public centres, associations, and clubs, but only with permission from those in charge. The law prohibited the party from being affiliated with any external regulatory body but permitted political relations with national or foreign political parties or international political party federations, subject to compliance with the constitution and the law.

To enable the parties financially, the committee left the government to set up the regulations for parties financing. The committee did, however, recommended that parties receive a fixed amount for each elected representative in parliament, with an increase if the representative is a woman, young person, or person with a disability. Additionally, it was recommended to award a fixed amount to the party that achieves more than 1 per cent in the election in order to motivate subsequent elections, or to the party that achieves the same per centage in six governorates, or to the party that publishes a printed or electronic newspaper, or to the parties that merge. All of these amounts are fixed and awarded annually. The law has made it clear that political parties cannot accept funding, gifts, or donations from foreign countries, anonymous sources, official institutions, or government-owned businesses with a 51 per cent stake.

Additionally, the draft law included a number of benefits for parties aimed at financially empowering them, such as tax and government fee exemptions for party headquarters and the ability to deduct gifts and donations to the party as expenses under federal income tax law. Similarly, the law emphasised the establishment of a line item in the general budget to contribute to Parties' support via the issuance of a financial system for this purpose.  All of these articles, as well as others in the proposed draft party law, are intended to revitalise partisan work in Jordan, encourage more youth, women, and citizens to join existing parties or found new ones that reflect Jordanians' aspirations and hopes, and restore citizen confidence in partisan work and political life in general.

Lena Aloul is a member of the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System

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