Saturday, October 29, 2005

The missing center

I laughed quite hard when I read this. Apparently, the Jordan Labour Party had rented its headquarters in Irbid. They fell back on their rent, and the neighbors started complain about seedy characters and activities associated with the place. It seems that the head of the party had sublet the headquarters for a billiards hall. I suspect there weren't enough members showing up to play a game of pool, and the local teenagers were looking for a place to hang out. To make a long story short, the police evicted the party from its headquarters in an ugly scene.

This party is one of a number of centrist parties in the country. By and large, Jordanian voters tend to vote for centrist candidates, so it would be natural to assume that parties which reflect moderation and interest in Jordanian interests(rather than Islamic, pan Arab or leftist organizations) would be quite successful. The irony is that they are not. While the majority of MP's are centrist, most were elected as independents and not based on party platforms.

Many would argue that the current makeup of the parliament does not really reflect Jordanian political tendencies, as the MP's were largely elected based on personal or tribal basis. I would counter argue that from a political and ideological point of view, these deputies are a reasonable cross section of political thought in Jordan, and they are not monolithic. Asides from the IAF deputies, who were largely elected based on party platform, the independents range from moderately right of center (such as Mohammad Bani Hani and Abdallah Akaileh) to moderately left of center (Mamdouh Abbadi and Mustafa Shneikat). In the final analysis, they do represent the strong centrist tendencies of Jordanians.

So, back to the point. Jordanians are centrists, and centrist parties are failures. Is this a problem? I believe that it is. First, as a matter of principle, political movements should be organized for them to be successful. It is not enough to elect centrist candidates who have no common agenda, and no way of putting through programs which reflect (and shape) what most people want and need. Second, the lack of strong centrist parties leads to the false impression that were in not for distorted election laws, the IAF will take over the country and impose a Taliban state. Indeed, the absence of strong counterparties makes this a more likely scenario.

Successive Jordanian governments have actively worked at weakening any organized centrist movement in Jordan, in a short sighted view that a strong moderate party would be a threat to the existing order. So, while the IAF states that it in fact does want to change the existing order, it is an acceptable part of the political order in Jordan, various centrist parties that are loyal to the monarchy and to Jordan are considered to be a threat. Democracy in Jordan will not be complete without a strong centrist party.

5 Comments:

At 5:54 PM, Blogger jameed said...

Let me make a few points starting at your last phrase:

- I believe that democracy in Jordan will not be complete without a strong party system that includes the left, center and hey what the heck, the right!

- the renting of the labor party headquarters no matter how inappropriate, is funny. but it brings up the issue of viability of most parties in jordan. most are broke, and most can barely afford a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment which they claim as their "headquarters". others ability to pay their rent is tightly tied to the financial status of the members of its "central committee" members, while still others, while denying it and breaking the law, used to (or still are, think Baath) receiving "indirect" external funds to cover their expenses.

-there used to be a viable option for a centrist party in jordan. it was "al taqaddom wal adalah", the membership of which had some prominent figures with potential and will to change things. Unfortunately, most started resigning and Al Saad (of the tobacco company scandal fame) ended up the president. Now I am not sure if the party is still licensed.

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Jameed,

The fact is that there is no mechanism in place to make these parties financially viable, no matter how popular they are. Again, il beid ma bingala bi drat .

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Firas said...

KHalaf...
I love your blog! keep up the good work!
Now, this is very funny...hehee punks!
Now, in Jordan there are no real parties! And there is no real political life!
I hope the government could rent me the Parliment...dude I'll turn it into a kick ass night club..

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Small minded man you are

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

45%of jordan are iaf

 

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