Friday, April 20, 2007

Shooting the messenger

A recent opinion poll (summary here) by the Jordan Social Research Center has been the focus of some debate. The Islamists made hay over it because it showed that people for the most part would not like to see them getting in power. So, they shoot the messenger.

Of course, the results are similar to previous polls conducted by the center, and are not too different from those conducted by the rival Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. They are not different from actual results from elections, either, or from my own unscientific empirical observations. But as they say: “denial is not a river in Egypt”.

So, the heretical results of the new poll show that only 17% of people want to vote for the IAF in the next elections. These results also show that most people are happy with the one vote election law, and given the choice, would only use one of their votes. This is what is really angering to the Islamists and their leftist and Arabist allies.

In 1989, the Islamists won 22 out of 80 seats available in the parliament at the time. Newly reintroduced elections, general disenchantment with the economy at the time, the fact that the Islamists were the only legal political organization for the previous 30 years helped them in achieving this result. However, the multiple vote law used at the time helped immensely in magnifying their voting effectiveness. While voters voting for independents wasted their votes by distributing them among a large pool of candidates, the Islamists voted exclusively for the MB ticket.

Realizing the ability of the Islamists to abuse the system, the 1993 elections were conducted based on the one-vote law. While the Islamists were unhappy, they went along. In 1997, they boycotted the elections in protest over the one vote issue. In 2003, they ran and won 17 of the 115 contested seats.

The poll results anger the Islamists because, 18 years after winning 27.5% of seats in the parliament through abusing the voting system, they think that they are the only qualified representative of the Jordanian people, and they feel that any system that denies them their inalienable right to be the custodians of the Jordanian people is undemocratic.

In reality, people support the one vote law for precisely this reason. They don’t want the Islamists to gain power. But maybe if they talk about normalization some more, people will change their mind.

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33 Comments:

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Qwaider قويدر said...

Personally, I also think the Islamic front is not represented well enough. I think they control more of the undecided vote than anyone else, simply because the majority of the masses when confused will resort to the "Islamic" vote, as in, what's the worst that could happen.
Same applies to almost everywhere outside of Amman, since people are "addicted" to religion, the only thing that stands against religion there is tribalism.

At any rate, the only way for people to realize how bad a choice is, is suffering it's consequences. One of the great things about Democracy is that it's self correcting. If people suffered under Islamic Parliament, it will allow them to see why picking them is not a good choice.

Now, down to the meat... People of Jordan don't know better, they have never lived under democratic golden-age and all they can relate to are how miserable the conditions were in the past. So not having any baseline to compare to forces everyone to see anything as great!

I think the Islamists will win, and will score big, and the whole society is going to suffer the consequences of that, it's apparent that this is the growing trend not only in Jordan... We'll just have to wait and see

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

There is no evidence for your argument. The strength of the Islamists has always been greater in the cities, and not as you contend "outside Amman".

I don't think that that many people are confused any more. At lease, it is fair to say that people are more aware now than they were in 1989.

 
At 11:50 PM, Anonymous hamede said...

shooting the messenger is this 300 islamists the movie.
And how the are abusing the voting system.

 
At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Qwaider قويدر said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not WITH.. I'm very much AGAINST ... but I have to concede to the overwhelming power that they have. To underestimate them would be a grave mistake!
If we run a fully free democratic election with completely no "hidden" players and interests. They would win
I think the islamists are being challenged on many levels. And it's taking the combined effort of all these influences to reduce their size to what we see today.

Anyway, time will tell. Or as we say in Arabic, tomorrow we will sit on the wall and hear the noise!

By the way, I hope I am wrong

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamede: I didn't see 300, so I don't understand the reference.

The abuse is by trading votes between candidates in a way that could not be matched by the independents. Notice that they never call for single district seats, but only the abolition of the one vote system.

Qwaider: I understand that I might be more optimistic than you, although we agree on the substance.

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

Khalaf,
I don't what kind of justice there is in the more-than-one-vote-system, each one in the society should have one eqaul voice, if you want to solve tribalism use education not voting systems. I tend to agree with qwaider somehow on the let-them-try it idea, just yesterday I saw a documentary on the muslim brotherhood and their ideology and to be honest with you by what I saw I can tell that there is no such thing as national loyality, they are loyal only to the overall goals of the world wide organization..
Note: The poll suggested that they will only get 10% of the vote(I think so, the 17% is of the 74% that will vote for a political candidate-I suppose..)

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mohanned: You are right; I was being generous with the 17% figure. So, why should we conduct an experiment 90% of people refuse to conduct? Such an experiment will be harmful, and it's effects would probably be irreversible.

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

Khalaf,
You got me wrong, Lets say that those stats were true and the elections were held and the IAF got not 10% say 25% will they be happy?The first thing they will say that the government fabricated the results..You can't make them happy unless you give them absoloute power, any action the government or the people make toward political "peace" with the brotherhood will face a wall of brick-hard mindset that only wants power, they are no different from our status-quo, maybe they will just shut down some personal liberties and take us to war, thats all...
By the way I am becoming more to think about the IAF as only a tool by the govt to keep things at a halt..Is it just me?

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Why should we make them happy?

The idea that the IAF is a tool of the government to scare people from political reform is held by many people. They certainly were used as a tool to suppress leftists, Arabists and other opposition groups in the sixties, seventies and eighties. It would not be surprising if this is still their role. Having said that, I think that if this is true, it is a dangerous game.

 
At 10:06 PM, Blogger david santos said...

THANKS FOR YOU WORK AND HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger Habchawi said...

I have an idea, in the next election they should add a question on the ballot about this; if people vote in favor of the one vote system the IAF can shut up otherwise the government will figure something out. Any way I think we can live with a 30% or even 40% IAF for couple of years. Khalf I wanted to ask about why military personnel are not allowed to vote is it something in the constitution or just a policy to avoid criticism?

 
At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have simple question. If the IAF weigh only 10% of the votes, why the goverment is afraid from changing the one man- one vote election law (by the way it is first of-a-kind election law designed specially to Jordan by the -- embassy)????

 
At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have simple question. If the IAF weigh only 10% of the votes, why the goverment is afraid from changing the one man- one vote election law (by the way it is first of-a-kind election law designed specially to Jordan by the -- embassy)????

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Habchawi: I don't think that it is in the constitution, but in the election law. I don't see the Islamists complaining about this undemocratic anomaly.

Anon: The answer is simple. The multiple vote system can be used by 10% of the voters to get 70% of the seats. They now have about 10% of the seats, which is fair enough.

 
At 8:11 PM, Blogger Sulieman said...

I'm amazed Mr. Khalaf. Are you really serious? So this mean the all the democratic countries in the west using the multiplevoting system are governed by minorities!!! I'm amazed.

Jordan Lover

 
At 8:14 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

What democratic countries in the west have multiple votes? I am not aware of any.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Sulieman said...

I think you should familiarize yourself with elections law in UK, Germany, South Africa, New eland...etc) it is called the mixed member proportional representation where people elect their representative based on geographical location and political programs.

Regards
Jordan Lover

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mixed member voter representation is explained here. This is not the system that was used in 1989, and requires the existence of rival political parties (which only nominally exist in Jordan). This system can be also be abused, as explained in the article.

But this was not the point of my post. The point was that opinion polls show that most people support the one vote system. Because the IAF doesn't like the results, they feel free to accuse the director of the study of fabricating the facts, and part of a "media war". Real classy.

I would tend to agree with Habchawi, who proposed that the whole issue can be put up for a referendum. As for

 
At 9:24 PM, Blogger Sulieman said...

I agree it is not the same system used in 1989. But there is something suspicious about one man-one vote currently adopted in Jordan and about the government insistence on keeping it. Although the National Agenda Committee formed by the government recommended using of the mixed system, our government still in total denial!!!

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Actually, the NA gave two conflicting ideas (see pages 9 and 10 here.
The first idea is a mixed system of seats for districts as well as national seats for political slates. The second idea was to divide the kingdom into one seat districts. As you point out, neither of these ideas have been adopted.

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Sulieman said...

But do you think the reason behind goverment insistance on keeping the current election law?

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

They are happy with the results. They also don't want to deal with questions of district sizes and populations (in the case of the one seat per district option). The electoral slate option is an unknown gamble which has the potential of nasty surprises, given the immature nature of political parties in Jordan.

I am not even sure that the government will not change the law after the dissolution of parliament. It is possible that they will, in fact, issue a temporary law after the current extraordinary session ends.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Sulieman said...

You are absolutely right, they are happy with the results. Emad Hajjaj has a nice cartoon about this that I agree with to some extent. see http://mahjoob.com/en/archives/view.php?cartoonid=2070

 
At 10:48 PM, Blogger Habchawi said...

Thanks Khalf, you see my point this large population of people without representation is really undemocratic anomaly that no body cares about.The IAF representation might not be that high after all.

 
At 5:33 AM, Blogger Fadi Malian said...

Regarding the military personnel involvement, the reason in my opinion, is to avoid the involvement of military in politics. If they can vote then it follows candidates can target them to promote their programs and asking for those votes, and military personnel will start to have interest and discussion in politics. That is seen as dangerous at many levels including forming some divisions within the military.

Regarding the one vote being "first of-a-kind election law", that is not exactly true, similar law was in place in Japan till the eighties or the nineties. Though it is rare and Jordan maybe the only country having it today.

 
At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Kareem said...

Very interesting discussion. I'm actually planning to write a graduate paper on this topic and I am trying to find any written material I could use as a source. My Arabic is limited so English sources would be best.

Thanks in advance,
Kareem

PS... and thanks for this great blog Khalaf.

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

I think that they should be able to vote, but they also can't be a part of political parties since our parties are all interested in non-jordanian issues...

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger Habchawi said...

"involvement of military in politics"
whether we see or not the military is involved in politics and high ranking military personnel often join governments after they retire. Also, I believe the intelligence dept. and the army are always in the decision making circles. I don't see any harm in simply allowing military personnel to vote. actually I think with some planning to integrate them in the political process and allowing them to vote might have a great influence on the shape of the parliament members.
Mohannd, Asking them not be part of political part is in essences telling them who to vote for. However, I agree with you to some extent about the political parties in Jordan.

 
At 12:23 AM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

Habshawi,
I was refering to the military as personnel not as leadership, the military in jordan works under the palace and the king not under the government, so all of this involvment that you are talking about is nothing but doing what told to do, but if we want to involve soldiers then there will be a risk, so you have to balance between the risk and the advantages, you almost have two hundred thousand votes(military,police,intelligence,etc..)And most of those people come from rural areas(Salt, maan,irbid, etc...) so there effect on the highly populated areas will be minimal, and also don't forget that jordanians from east bank always vote in their home town, not where they live(We vote in salt) is this good or bad?I don't know..So for me a law would make sence if people voted in the city where they lived not in their home towns-this will eliminate alot of the power that IAF have in the big cities..And by allowing the military personnel to vote you balance the difference caused by my previous suggestion..Bte6la3 kasban both ways..But regarding political parties I think that we both agree on loyalty..

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Habchawi said...

Mohanned, Well you would think that the military personnel vote will be a more 'moderate'; not totally tribal but takes into consideration the loyalty thing as you mentioned. Anyway I think while we might disagree on the details booth of us agree that having this large number of CITIZENS unrepresented is unfair and undemocratic.
And it's habchawi not habshawi…habshawi sounds like the country al7abashia:))))))

 
At 5:18 AM, Blogger aobajo said...

Quaider said: "At any rate, the only way for people to realize how bad a choice is, is suffering it's (sic) consequences. One of the great things about Democracy is that it's self correcting."

One can only hope this is true.

I began reading this blog because I wanted to know more about the so-called "red-dead" project, and Khalaf’s blog was one of the 'hits' when I Googled for more information. Beyond that, however, I have quickly become fascinated with Khalaf's blog and the absolutely thoughtful, knowledgeable and sincere discussions in the comment section [ unlike the nasty, in-your-face, too-personal name-calling crap that other blogs seems to degrade into ]. But back to Quaider's comment about Democracy...

As I write this I am sitting on the west coast of the United States; I know little or nothing about Jordan or the ME - at current we only hear what the media feeds us [ I have a feeling and a hope that that will soon change ] but I have to say this to Quaider: all it takes, apparently, is once – and trust me, once such a 'mistake' is made when electing a "Leader", it takes a very long time to correct that mistake. Hopefully for us in America, the end of this Administration is in sight, but not after it has negatively affected not only our lives here in the United States, but – horrifically – in the rest of the world as well. Because of the gullibility of a miniscule majority, the world has been plunged back into the 11th century. We may indeed be physically rid of this Administration by January 2009, but it will take decades, if not centuries, to correct the mistakes perpetrated by it

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

Khalaf,
Are you ok? No posts for long time. hope everything is fine!

 

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