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REVISITING Political Party Legislation in Jordan
Author : Several Contributors
Book Language : English, العربية
Publication Date : 2011
The partisan phenomenon is one of the most important and intricate phenomena in terms of studying the ruling and democracy disciplines all over the world. There are several types and regulations of political parties; the missions and nature of these parties and the formats of the political systems they operate in are several; the roles they assume in power succession and the preparation of governmental programs and their control are also diversified. Emergence of the partisan phenomenon is the most sensitive and controversial in the public domain and among the civil society organizations because it has a direct impact on the life of people and their demands. Parties exercise varied roles in terms of raising the new generation and consecrating the cultural and political values as well as organizing participation in elections, training the leaders and representing the community.
Studying the political parties in Jordan is becoming of an increasing importance in light of the continuous efforts to escape the crisis of a real transition towards democracy and realizing the political reform in Jordan.
Serious and diversified discussions and dialogues have been taking place in Jordan since the restoration of the Parliamentary life in 1989 and even before that date. These discussions and dialogues are focused on the feasibility and effectiveness of political parties and the reasons for their deteriorating role in the public life.
The discussions focus entailed a group of factors including historical causes related to the history of partisan heritage in Jordan; some of the conversant have been concentrating on the role of political culture, the political awareness, and the set of values that glorify the tribe on the account of institutional practice. Some others consider that the international political environment and the interventions by the regional powers in the political and civil life a reason that impedes the parties' operation.
Admitting the importance of all the above factors, this book is an attempt to highlight part of the environment in which the political parties operate; namely, the laws regulating the political branch in Jordan. It is an attempt to highlight the role of these laws and their impact on the role of political parties whether negatively or positively. It tries to examine these laws and provide proposals and recommendations required in this respect so that they can become more relevant to enforce the role of parties and help them be leverage for the political life and its advancement.
The evaluation of these laws especially the Law of Political Parties is based on a set of standards including the recommendations provided by the political, right and legal civic cadres in Jordan.
The regional standards approved by the taskforce of the Parliament and reform of the Law of Political Parties and launched by the Parliamentary Development Initiative in the Arab Region under the UNDP in 2006. Al-Quds Center for Political Studies joined the initiative and engaged in implementing the second phase of the project which entails a review and reform of the Law of Political Parties in Jordan depending on a national taskforce to help build a nation-wide consensus in relation with the a new draft law for Political Parties in Jordan.
First Chapter: The Jordanian Law of Political Parties and the Minimal Standards for the Laws of Political Parties in the Arab Countries
This Chapter is aimed at identifying the major variables that need to be accounted for in the Jordanian Law of Political Parties No. (19) for 2007 and submit recommendations to draft a new law for the Jordanian Political Parties. Such a law should help develop and operationalize the partisan activity; and it should lay the ground for an effective role of the political parties in the political decision making.
Accordingly, this Chapter provides an analysis for three major components: the first presents an analysis of the Law of Political Parties for 2007 and a comparison thereof with the previous law for 1992. It is an attempt to establish if the new law can be taken as a step forward or rather a regressive step with more restrictions and complications. Could it be just another copy of the 1992 law with some formal changes?
The second component tries to identify the extent of relevance of the articles of the Jordanian Law of Political Parties to the minimal standards for the political parties' laws in the Arab countries. These standards were approved by the Taskforce of the Parliament and Reform of the Political Parties' Law launched by the above mentioned Parliamentary Development Initiative.
The third component provides an analysis of the extent of harmony between the Law of Parties for 2007 and the recommendations by the Committee of Political Parties under "Jordan First Commission" founded by King Abdullah II in 2002. This Committee includes a group of politicians, experts, partisan figures, and Members of Parliament. Its major recommendation was to amend the Law of Political Parties of 1992.
The Analysis concludes that a large number of the articles of the Jordanian Law of Parties do not align with the minimal standards approved by the Taskforce of Parliament and Reform of the Political Parties' Law. This Law does not accommodate the recommendations provided by "Jordan First commission"; and it cannot be an active factor in the growth of the partisan and political work in Jordan. It is still governed with the "security" mindset especially that it designates the Ministry of Interior as the legal and administrative referential authority for parties. When defining the "Political Party", the Law stipulates that "it is every political organization that consists of a group of Jordanians with the aim of being engaged in the public life." The Law does not mention that a party is aimed at acceding power and getting engaged in it through peaceful methods. The Law also stipulates that the number of a party associates must be 500 at least with their habitual residence in 5 provinces. Indeed! Another impediment to the association of political parties. When the law was issued, many parties could not reconcile their status in compliance with this condition. Thus, a large number of parties that used to operate before the issuance of this Law. Although the Law provides for a financial support function, it does not provide for the criteria to be eligible for such a support. These criteria can include the number of seats that the party could obtain at the Parliament, the extent to which the Party is visible geographically, and its keenness to empower women and the youth especially at the leadership level of the Party.
Chapter Two: the Impact of Legislation Regulating the Public Operation on the Role of the Jordanian Political Parties:
The Law of Political Parties is not the only law to have an impact on the operation of political parties; there is a group of laws that hold a direct impact on the operation and activities of political parties. They affect their performance and their ability to convey their mission and message to the community. The present Study entails an analysis of some of these laws that are directly or indirectly linked to the operation of political parties. Following are these laws:
• The Provisional Law of Elections of the Lower House No. (9) for 2010;
• The Bylaw No. (26) for 2010 of Constituencies;
• The Law of Press and Publication No. (8) for 1998;
• The Law of Audio-visual Media No. (8) for 1998;
• The Law of Public Meetings No. (6) for 2004;
• The Law of Associations No. (51) for 2008;
• The Law of Guaranteed Right to Information Access No. (7) for 2007;
• The Law of Municipalities No. (14) for 2007;
• The Bylaw of the Jordanian Lower House of Representatives for 1996.
This Study concludes a set of recommendations and proposals to reform and develop these laws especially the Law of Elections which has the most critical impact on the operation of political parties. The Law of Elections is based on the one man- one vote mechanism; it does not provide for an electoral mechanism to help create partisan lists during the elections' period. Of course, this contributed to the poor participation of the Jordanian parties in elections- both the parliamentarian and the municipal.
Chapter Three: Democracy in the Internal Scenes of the Jordanian Political Parties
This Chapter tackles the issue of democracy in the internal scenes of the Jordanian Political Parties of all trends (the Islamic, National, Leftist, and Moderate). It is aimed at identifying the extent to which the parties are committed to the minimal standards of democratic practice in their internal scenes given the fact that the majority of these parties are persistent in their criticism to the Government as being uncommitted to democracy.
This Chapter is laid out in two components; first: an analysis of the theoretical framework and second: the practical framework. Whereas the first component is aimed at analyzing the core charters of the Jordanian political parties in terms of their setting the theoretical legal ground for a democratic practice, the second component provides a quantitative analysis of the internal practices of the Jordanian political parties and their harmony with the democratic criteria.
Accordingly, a set of criteria and indicators has been approved to establish whether or not the Party has a democratic approach in its internal scenes according to these criteria which include, the general assembly meetings; renewal of leader assignments and periodical elections; accountability mechanisms; financial and regulatory transparency of the Party; whether or not the Party operates a mechanism to share its information with the citizens; if the Party has information media to explain the Party's policy and directives; and the indicator of women and the youth participation in the Party.
The Study concludes that most of the Jordanian parties scored as "fair" to "poor" when appraised against these criteria. The level of democracy in their operation is low and they must join an effort to raise their awareness of the importance of being organized based on a democratic practice; which will secure their efficiency on the ground.
In conclusion, the Study provides a set of proposals to the political parties and urge them to review and amend their charters with an eye on the importance of having a legislative apparatus in the party; identify the assignment of the Secretary General of the Party and members of the Executive Office; there must be clear mechanism for the internal elections; the institutional operation must be deeply rooted; and the party must be committed to financial transparency and empowerment of women and the youth at the leadership level of the Party.
Chapter Four: The Impact of the Law of Political Parties on the Fifteenth Lower House Elections and the House Composition
The fourth study in the book is that of the Impact of the Law of Political Parties on the Elections of the Fifteenth Lower House in 2007 and the composition of the House as well as the impact of the Law of Parties No. (19) for 2007 on the parties' participation in elections and the status of parties' participation in the elections and the parties represented at the Lower House.
One part of the study is designated to cover the national argument in relation with the buildup of effective political trends based on the Royal initiatives under "Jordan First" and the "National Agenda." In addition, there are the governmental initiatives such as the governmental-partisan committee to write a draft law of parties which submitted amendments to the Law of Parties that were approved by the Lower House; mainly, increasing the number of associate members of a party to 500 people.
The Study confirms that there has been on positive impact for the new Law of Parties on the participation of Jordanian parties in the elections of the Fifteenth Lower House. This is due to several reasons including the absence of relevance of policies and the absence of relevance of legislation and the lack of credibility for the Government.
The Study tackles the status of parties' participation in elections; it sheds light on parties participating in the elections including the Islamic Action Front Party, and the Jordanian Democratic People Unity Party. In addition, the four parties of the national trend participated in the elections; these are: the Democratic People's Party, the Jordanian Communist Party, the Jordanian Arab Ba'ath Party, and the Jordanian Arab Party.
The Study also reveals the partisan map in the Fifteenth Lower House. It reveals that the only representatives who won by virtue of their partisan capacity were the six representatives from the Islamic Action Front Party who created the Islamic Action Front Bloc chaired by Shiekh Hamza Mansour. None of the other representatives at Parliament announced affiliation to any of the political parties that used to be in existence during the parliamentary elections on 20 November 2007. This is the lowest number of partisans acceding the Parliament since the elections of the Eleventh Lower House in 1989.
The Study also sheds light on the Parliamentarian Blocs created at the Fifteenth Lower House during two years of its term before its dissolution. It reveals that four Parliamentarian blocs were formed with one only based on a partisan group; namely, the Islamic Action Front Party.
On the other hand, the Study tackles the topic of parties being created from the Parliamentarian blocs. It mentions the National Current Bloc which was the largest bloc at the Lower House (54 Representatives) and from which the National Current Party emerged with the leadership of the Lower House Speaker- Abdul Hadi Al-Majali.
However, the Study considers that the National Current Party experience is challenged with the threat of continuity. In fact, to gather associates to create a party is not the hardest step when it comes to the operation of political parties. Mr. Al-Majali used to be the leader of a party emerging from the merger of nine parties with similar platforms. Yet, the experience failed.
On the Parliamentarian level, membership in the Jordanian Lower House witnesses a high rate of renewal; renewal of the previous Lower House membership counted for about 75%; i.e. the forthcoming Lower House will be totally different in its composition compared to the present House. Thus, this element of continuity of the Parliamentarian formation of the National Current Bloc will be secured.
General Recommendations:
1. Issue a new law for the Jordanian political parties that observes the minimal standards as set by the Taskforce of Parliament and Reform of the Law of Political Parties launched by the Parliamentarian Development Initiative in the Arab Region by the UNDP. The Law must also accommodate recommendations by the political parties, and the civil society organizations calling for developing the Law of Parties. In addition, there are the recommendations of a number of the national cadres that include a number of experts and politicians such as "Jordan First" and the "National Agenda".
2. Work on reforming the legislative framework of public and political work in Jordan in order to enroot the principles of democracy and human rights with an eye on reforming the Law of Parliamentary and Municipal Elections to include:
A "mixed" electoral bylaw that combines voting for an individual candidate in the constituency where the voter votes and electing a relative partisan list with a certain rate of the total Lower House seats designated for the Partisan lists. Thus, the Law of Public Meetings must be review especially in terms of revoking the requirement of prior consent to hold public meetings of parties and the civil society organizations to be replaced with a requirement of a 48-hour prior notice. However, the Public Security Department must be allowed to do its duty in terms of maintaining security for those meetings.
3. The Political Parties must review and amend their Charters; they must institutionalize their operation and deepen the democratic practice in their internal scenes.
4. The Political Parties must be keen on tackling concerns of people and their problems in a direct manner; they must put slogans aside when presenting their general platforms to ensure a detailed presentation of issues of concern for the different sectors with a realistic criticism of the official policies that contradict with the interests of people as a whole. They must introduce well considered alternative that express the Party's views.

5. A party must be invited to strengthen its ties with the competent civil society organizations in order to make use of their accumulative experience and knowledge and have them engaged in their daily activities.
6. Call on the civil society organizations to stop their unjustifiable caution when dealing with the political parties; they must have the conviction that there will be democracy without political parties. They must be keen on targeting the partisan audience on top of all their target groups due to its importance in developing and increasing the knowledge and capacity of partisan activists.