Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why elections are boring

It has been said that all politics are local. In Jordan, this adage takes on even greater meanings, as most races for parliament are fought for and determined by local politics rather than by any grand political battles.

It starts with the election law.In the current law, the candidates who win the highest number of votes win the seats for that district. In 2003, this meant that candidates with less than 5% of the votes cast could gain a seat in the parliament. For example, Khalil Habarneh won a seat representing the first district by clinching 3419 out of 69324 votes cast (4.9%). Similarly, Marwan Sultan gained a seat in the coveted third district by collecting 3717 out of 66094 total votes cast (5.6%). In most districts, the total votes collected by all the winners did not come near the 50% mark. It is no wonder that almost everybody thinks that they can collect a couple of thousand votes and win a seat. It is true.

Then there are the voters. The electorate has come to view MP’s as their wasta to getting a job, university seat, their road fixed or for asking for the hand of a bride. Thus, from a functional point of view, it makes sense to vote for one of your relatives or friends. Not only do you get a wasta, but you also get bragging rights over your friends from other tribes. More entrepreneurial voters are simply selling their votes (capitalism coming full circle). Tribes are now conducting internal votes (primaries?) to see who will be their candidate. Most have a pretty good idea how many votes they will get because it is the same as the number of their tribe in the district. Governments cynically grant favors to deputies and their favorite constituents so that they can pressure them whenever they want a controversial law passed.

What about political inclinations? Well, these play little into the results. Unless you want to vote for an Islamist, then for the most part you have to choose between centrists who are more interested in the perks of the job than in making any resounding political statement.

And then there are the candidates. Few of them are overly politically interesting. They are either bored self important businessmen, ex-government officials looking for a way back into the limelight or retired ex-officers who have suddenly found lots of extra time on their hands. Political parties run few candidates, and even their candidates play by the rules of tribalism and patronage.

I am hoping something different might happen this time. So far, it looks like the same old same old.



At 5:02 PM, Blogger Ayman said...

yawn yawn :-)

This is almost hopeless...

About the "perks" though, I am curious, are there comparable data on travel expenses of the ministers or other government officials?!

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I would mot call it boring Khalaf. each day I find something anusing about the elections. I lost hope with the purpose of the elections ince 1993 but they really do provides some comic and interested features. I just love it when my so-called sophisticated well-educated friends in Eastern Amman bragging each day by the politicization of their actions end up voting for a contractor like Khaleel Attiyyeh. Boring can never be the proper word, it bis always amusing.

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khalaf, i will get back to you very soon. i have many comments on this topic because this is the most interesting topic in my opnion.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Bilalٍ said...

The contractor this year is Al-Heet Al-Hoot:)
Its really pathetic. and they expect us to really go and vote. Man, its mas5arah. For the last four years, the news that leaked from parliament and the way they behaved, its really sad and funny.
I remember once the parliament issued a law for "Illegal income" and the MPs excluded them selves!!Man, Hilarious.

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you are right. But we do have some good female candidates this year that actually have a clear platform and agenda, and that are campaigning for votes. Female candidates are more interesting because women in Jordan traditionally have to go an extra mile and try harder to get there; while the men normally as you said, get voted into parliament by default through their tribes.


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