Jordanians will vote on Wednesday to choose 150 representatives from a list of around 1,500 candidates for election to the country’s lower house of parliament.
Jordan has experienced a series of small-scale protests and demonstrations against the rule of King Abdullah since the onset of the Arab Spring two years ago. Abdullah, whose father King Hussein signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, faces the challenge of a struggling economy and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting in neighbouring Syria. Political reform has been limited in Jordan, however Abdullah has expressed support for gradual change and recently told a French magazine, “The system of ruling in Jordan is evolving … and the monarchy which my son will inherit will not be the same as the one I inherited.” Last year Abdullah introduced constitutional reforms allowing the Chamber of Deputies, set to be elected this week, a freer hand in introducing legislation. For the first time its members will choose the prime minister, rather than the monarch. In addition, an Independent Electoral Commission was created which will oversee this week’s vote.
However, despite these reforms, the main opposition bloc, the Islamic Action Front, which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, has announced that it will boycott Wednesday’s vote alongside four other smaller factions. Its leaders claim that the electoral boundaries have been fixed so as to under-represent their core support in the country’s cities. It is estimated that two thirds of Jordanians live in cities, but are allocated less than one third of assembly seats. Nonetheless, the Islamic Action Front is apparently struggling to galvanise public opposition to the vote, with an estimated two thousand people joining a protest in the capital Amman on Friday.