Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In search of relevance

Our thirty something (number, not age) political parties are angry with the government. They are vowing that they would not meet with the prime minister even if he asked them to. They think that such meetings are useless. Obviously, the prime minister has similar sentiments.

Why are they angry? Maybe it is because the PM met with the professional unions, and not them, to discuss the election law. That is not what they say. They wrote a letter to the king, saying that the government and the parliament are not to be trusted with legislation meant to promote public freedoms and public participation. They specifically cited the press and publications law and the political parties’ law. As usual, the IAF joined the statement, even though their deputies voted to allow jailing for press crimes, and conveniently decided to walk out of the session (on an unrelated issue) where the number of required founding members for political parties was raised from 50 to 500. Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth. They want the king to impose democracy by decree, with no sense of the irony that such a demand entails.

Anyway, the political parties seem to be worried about the stipulation that they need to raise their membership in order to stay licensed. While the deputies seem to have had their self interest in mind, the consolidation of these parties may ultimately be a healthy development, as Nahid Hattar suggests. This remains to be seen. The more immediate impact is that few of the existing parties will survive this change.

As a matter of principle, I see no problem with only one person setting up a political party. If it proves to be appealing, it will grow. If not, it will be irrelevant (as most parties are). On the other hand, any political party that can’t scrape together 500 members from five (out of twelve) governorates will probably have little to impact on public life anyway. In fact, I suspect that none (until now) have done anything to increase their membership after licensing. I myself have approached a couple of political parties to join in the recent past, but they didn’t show any interest. These are run as social clubs, not as political parties.

So, it is laughable that the parties are threatening to boycott the upcoming elections unless the law is changed to ensure that party lists are elected. In the first place, who will notice? Secondly, they are asking for preferential treatment, ostensibly because they have something different to offer. What do they have to offer? Antics like this or this?

It occurs to me that somebody like Abdelrauf Rawabdeh, former prime minister and current deputy, did not run in the last election on a party slate. Moreover, he belongs to a small family from the town of Sarih (Irbid second district). He clearly could not win based on tribal considerations alone. And yet, he knew that no political party would have helped him win.

For all of the many faults of the politicians currently occupying their seats in the lower house, it seems that they understand their constituents and their needs more than the members of the political parties. They speak of their issues, and are interested (genuine or not) in their problems. None of the squawking irrelevant parties have convinced anybody that they are important or that they represent the needs of the people. Polls consistently show that people do not believe in them. I have said it before, and I will say it again: relevance can not be imposed or legislated.


At 9:15 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

My friend,
Just look at the pictures that they hang behind them-I think I saw it in alghad.jo- This shows how loyal they are for jordan..The jordanian flag on the left and maybe six palastinian flags..Saddams pictures all over and A dude who I don't know..You call these jordanian political parties!! I am not against arab issue but we are in jordan!!Palestainian have enough parties to defend their cause!!Think about jordan and only jordan for now!!

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

I think that this is the point I was trying to make. I suggest you look at these links to see where I am coming from:

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

Me and you are on the same line in the same page in the same book:)

They believe that jordan is "ard el 7ashd wal reba6" that is their mission statment, and they have the mentality of "the goal explains the tools" :)

I wish we can find someone who is honest in loving jordan and who is not corrupt that can create a real national movement, and I will be the first to join..The mission statment of this movement should be"national interest first" which is the same as 'jordan first'.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

There are a number of "nationalist" (or centrist) parties. However, none seem to be particularly serious. If I find one, I will let you know :)

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya 3arabyat,balashat al 3onseryah.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I share many of your views in previous posts, this one I find very narrow...political reform will never happen without parties. What does it matter if the number is 12 or 500? Those that are good will grow and those who arent, wont make a difference anyway...and please, spare me the idea that the current parliamentarians are better for their constituents than political parties!!! You should try to analyse WHY we dont have effective parties, instead of describing the symtoms (which I agree with you on) and prescribing legislative execution...

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Long time reader. Thank you for the kind words and feelings. The fact that voters don't find the discourse of political parties appealing is self evident. No matter what you say about the current parliamentarians, people have voted for them rather than the political party slates.

I said in the post that I wouldn't mind if only one person is needed to establish a political party. So, we are in agreement that the number should not be an obstacle to forming a party.

I have discussed why we don't have effective political parties. An effective party would appeal to the voters ideas, needs and values. It would aggressively recruit members. It would work rather than whine. The problem is not legislation. Strong parties would impose the legislation they want, rather that wait for the government to feel sorry for them.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most political parties have been working in public since 1989 so how much time do they need more than 18 years to establish themselves and manage to reach 500 members? I know exactly that the motive behind the government and deputies decision to increse the number was not the desire to enhance political life but the question remains why the parties have deteriorated. I remember back in 1990-1995 whan I had some active participation in political lef parties (Hashd, left democratic party) that it was possible to mobilize more than 1000 people but now the number cannot jump beyond few hundreds.


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