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The 1993 elections in Jordan.

In November 1993, Jordanians went to the polls to elect the lower house of parliament (the Chamber of Deputies) for the second time since the onset of liberalization in the late 1980s.(1) Some 821,000 of 1,203,329 registered voters (68%) cast ballots in a generally free election,(2) a 4.7% increase over the number of persons voting in the previous elections of November 1989.(3) A total of 536 candidates representing numerous parties, tendencies, and tribes competed for the 80 seats. Yet despite the greater attention devoted to the ground-breaking 1989 elections, the first since liberalization and one of the first nation-wide indications of the strength of Islamic political trends, the recent elections marked a more significant development in Jordanian politics and warrant closer scrutiny. Three issues account for this significance: the new legal atmosphere in which the elections were held, the changing nature of campaigning and political maneuvering engendered by the democratic experiment, and the conceptualization of political identity in Jordan which was revealed by the outcome.


The 1993 elections marked an important step in the consolidation of Jordanian democracy because they were the first held in the new and liberalized legal atmosphere forged during four years of the democratic experience which began in 1989. While the 1989 balloting was regarded as free, the elections were nonetheless held under the terms of martial law, including the ban on legal political parties and restrictions on the press. Thanks to the Political Parties Law of September 1992 and the Press and Publications Law of December 1992, the 1993 elections were the first national elections in which political parties were allowed to campaign legally and relatively freely since the elections of 1956, the last before parties were banned in 1957.

The elections were also significant because of an important change in the way in which voters selected candidates. The increased number of eligible/registered voters over the 1989 elections is partially explained by the number of Jordanian citizens returning from the Gulf countries following the Gulf War (about 100,000 returnees registered to vote)(4) and increased trust in the regime and its attempts at democratization. Yet a vital factor in the increase was the introduction, in August 1993, of a "one-person, one-vote" formula into the Election Law, changing the former system of multiple votes. This change led politicians as well as kinship units such as tribes and clans to feel that they stood a better chance at winning seats under the new law by mobilizing their kin/affiliates to vote. This in turn led to a concerted effort to register voters, collect voting cards, and prompt voters to actually cast ballots.

In fact, the change introduced into the election law was one of the major factors influencing the election results. The law in effect during the 1989 elections designated a specific number of seats for each of the country's twenty electoral districts, and gave each voter a number of votes equal to the number of seats designated for his/her district. Thus, the voter in Amman's second District cast three ballots for the three designated seats in that district, while a voter in the Irbid governorate voted for nine candidates corresponding to its nine designated seats. By contrast, the change in the electoral law allowed only one vote for each voter, regardless of the number of seats designated for his/her district. Therefore a voter in Amman's second district would vote only for one candidate under the new law. The three candidates who received the highest votes in that district were seated in parliament. Because of this new situation, the nature of campaigning and tactics was also changed (see below).

Despite the seemingly progressive nature of the new "one person, one vote" formula, a narrower political agenda is discernable when one considers that the amendment to the Election Law was introduced by the government to improve the fortunes of candidates representing pro-regime constituencies and to weaken well-organized groups. The method by which the amendment was introduced underscores this point: shortly after King Hussein dismissed parliament in anticipation of the elections, the government issued the decree on the basis of an emergency powers clause in the constitution. The new "one person, one vote" formula was widely perceived as a maneuver which would hinder the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to repeat its stunning showing in 1989, and was bitterly opposed by the Brotherhood and most political parties.

What the amendment did not change was equally important for shoring up the regime's support in parliament. Aspects of the Law which worked in its favor were left intact. For instance, each of the twenty electoral districts was left with the same number of seats as before. However, the population of those districts had changed. To return to Amman's second district and the Irbid governorate, the former still elected three persons (with a population of 391,849) while Irbid (with a population of 390,685) had nine seats in parliament. If the number of designated seats was representative of population size based on the official ratio of population to seats, then both should send ten representatives.(5)

Furthermore, that aspect of the Law which assigned a disproportionate number of seats to "loyal" rural areas and minority groups rather than to the more politically hostile urban areas was left intact. This is conspicuous once again when one compares the three seats assigned to Amman's second district (which incidently has a high percentage of politically-active Palestinian residents)(6) with the five seats allocated to the southern town of Ma'an, only one-fifth as large (population: 79,090) and a traditionally solid base of East Bank support for the regime. Nor did the amendment remove the seats reserved for minorities (Christian Arabs and non-Arab, Muslim Circassians and Shishans) and bedouin tribes, quotas that give these groups - once again, groups traditionally perceived as loyal subjects - greater representation in parliament than their numbers would warrant.

A second vital change in the legal atmosphere was the passage of the Political Parties Law of September 1992. The Law allowed parties to petition for legal status for the first time since 1957. By election day, 20 parties had been licensed, most of which fielded candidates but not openly. Despite this dramatic change in the Jordanian political scene, its effects were not immediately felt during the balloting because the parties had little time to organize themselves and mobilize support. What is more, most campaigning was not carried out on the basis of party platforms (see below).

Lastly, the 1993 elections were significant in that candidates could at last print and distribute publications under the terms of the Press and Publications Law of December 1992. Again, the law was more significant as a symbol of the ongoing process of democratization than for its effect on the elections for the same reasons cited above.


The introduction of "one person, one vote" had several ramifications on the manner in which the election campaign was conducted, as well as on how voters cast their ballots. During the 1989 campaign, when voters had multiple votes, candidates focused on alliance-building and joint lists of candidates (for the Muslim, Christian, and Circassian/Shishan seats in a given district, for instance) to increase their chances of winning. For example, in districts where Christians were guaranteed a seat, the Muslim Brotherhood allied with certain Christian candidates, instructing its supporters to east one of their multiple votes for the Brotherhood-backed Christian candidate. In this way, the Brotherhood would win one or more of the Muslim seats, plus perhaps the Christian seat as well (via its Christian ally). Through such maneuvers, the Brotherhood and other candidates increased their chances of winning since the voters had the luxury of choosing their favorite candidate (in most cases, a member of their tribe/clan or party) and then paid their dues to their political favorites (their allies, co-religionists, etc.). However, under "one person, one vote," voters could cast only one vote for one candidate (whether Muslim, Circassian or Christian), which curtailed their ability to please all favorites.

The campaign revealed the complex political atmosphere in Jordan. The competing and intertwining forces in these elections were tribes/clans, Islamists, those seeking votes of Palestinian refugees and Jordanians of Palestinian origin, and leftist/nationalist parties. Who voted for whom was thus based on several, sometimes overlapping loyalties.

A key dimension of the election was the supremacy of tribal and centrist forces and the concomitant strength of regional identification over ideological or political affiliation. This was not only revealed by the outcome of the election, but by the style of campaigning as well. The target audience determined the style of campaigning. One method was based on the written word: banners and posters, the distribution of leaflets, and newspaper ads carrying the candidates' slogans. The quantity of these banners differed from one electoral district to another and reflected each district's sociological make-up. For example, banners were scarce or non-existent in the bedouin districts while numerous in Amman and other urban centers such as Zarqa'. This is ascribed mainly to the fact that elections in the bedouin areas were based almost exclusively on tribal affiliations and traditional relations among the tribes rather than on ideological sloganeering. In bedouin areas, the madafas (guest houses) constructed by the candidates were the main channel of candidate/elector dialogue as well as personal visits. In the more affluent third district of Amman, on the other hand, candidates employed electronic advertisements. The electric digital sign at the posh Safeway supermarket flashed candidates' names (specifically that of Tahir al-Masri, a relative of Safeway's owners).

In general, the most common forms of campaigning (even in affluent areas) were the use of guest houses for gatherings, personal visits by candidates to homes (usually the home of the head of the clan or the key person in a family association), and public gatherings. Ad-hoc guest-houses, such as family associations centers, business offices, and private homes, sprang up alongside the traditional guest houses (including bedouin tents made of camel hair).

Candidates employed other, sometimes humorous methods to gain attention. Many depended on lavish meals to attract voters - through their palates. As the campaign manager of one candidate noted, "People tend to remember the last meal they had and perhaps even those who offered it to them."(7) Household items such as blankets were distributed, as were pencils and sharpeners, school notebooks, tee-shirts, and American-style baseball hats in the hopes of attracting voters. Candidates also excelled in nick-naming themselves to draw distinctions between themselves and others. One candidate called himself the "surprise element" in the elections, another the "spoiler" for other runners, yet another the representative of the "silent majority."

Despite the government's public statements of non-interference in the campaign,(8) it did so extensively through the imposition of numerous regulations/mechanisms governing the campaign. One of the most obvious was the government's ban on public political meetings staged by candidates, announced at the outset of the campaign. This regulation confined candidates to their private homes and campaign offices (which could not exceed one office for each candidate) for publicizing their views and interacting with the public. Candidates contested the ban, and the courts in fact overturned the ban on 28 October - just one week prior to election day. The government also banned civil servants from actively engaging in the election campaign, in any manner, including writing editorials in the newspapers. The government also transferred civil servants who violated the ban from their electoral district to another one as a form of punishment. (Incidently, the civil servants concerned were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood).

The powers that be also tried to influence the elections through various pronouncements, ostensibly made in the public interest. The King made several speeches prior to election day advising people to exercise their right to vote and to "opt for moderation." He also urged Jordanian citizens to be "on a high level of responsibility and caution so as not to fall for the crackle of loud voices, fake glittering slogans or words of good meant to do bad."(9) Moreover, the official media (press, radio and television) encouraged people to go to the polls and make the "right choice," since in a democracy their votes were valuable. These campaigns were seen as attempts to counteract the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.


The campaign was also noteworthy for its themes and slogans, which revealed the attitudes and priorities of the candidates and the general population. The 1989 campaign focused on ending corruption, deepening democratization, establishing government accountability, increasing employment opportunities, and a multitude of rather vague and unattainable objectives, such as ending Jordan's dependence on external funding, reducing the national debt, the total liberation of Arab Jerusalem, and realizing Arab unity. By contrast, the overriding themes seen in street banners during the campaign related to economic issues (such as unemployment), institutional reforms, socio-economic development, the peace process, national unity, as well as emotional slogans bearing no particular message (such as, Arab proverbs, etc.).

The main difference between the 1989 election themes and those of 1993 stems from the fact that the electorate was cognizant of what could/could not be realized by the parliament under a system of guided democracy after four years of parliamentary life. Voters saw that many of the grandiose campaign themes of 1989 were unattainable under the socio-economic, political, regional and international constraints that Jordan faced. Secondly, the regime's attempt to undermine the parliament's position left a deep impression on the electorate. These attempts were dramatically manifested by the regime's "go-it-alone" policies without prior consultation with parliament (such as deciding to enter into negotiations with Israel, changing the electoral law, and even dismissing the parliament itself), as well as its power to silence vocal opponents in parliament and undercut their ability to function.(10) These measures drove home the point to the electorate that legislative power remains subservient to that of the executive (which is constitutionally empowered to curtail the parliament), and that it would retain ultimate control over the major issues of the day. The result was that candidates were more realistic in their slogans. Slogans stressed the candidate's desire to "reform what he is able to," and for previous MPs who were running again to emphasize that they "did what they could" and they "intended to do their best."

Campaign themes which emerged during the election can be classified into two general types: those which reflected the candidate's political orientation, and those which reflected the electoral districts' composition. Themes of the first type included slogans of party representatives, slogans of the Islamist candidates, of bedouin candidates, and slogans of previous MPs. The slogans of political parties' representatives advocated the party's program and focused mostly on strengthening the national opposition and democracy. Islamists focused mostly on the peace process, national unity, rejection of the "Jordanian option," and some calls for the total liberation of Palestine. bedouin candidates centered mostly on economic concerns and national unity.(11) Finally, previous parliamentarians boasted their actions in parliament as "honest, men of the people," as men who "stood against corruption," and men who called for "governmental accountability," etc.

The second type of themes reflected the population composition of each targeted electoral district. For example, in the largely Palestinian first and second districts of Amman (these districts include two refugee camps), the candidates focused on themes of interest to working class Palestinians. These included the Israeli-Palestinian accord, economic development, inefficient public services, and urban planning policies dealing with squatter housing. By contrast, in Amman's fourth district, which is an industrial district made up of conservative clans, candidates focused largely on the economic concerns of their constituents. The banners of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Qatarna, for instance, centered on the economics of pan-Arab politics: lifting the U.N. embargo against Iraq. The industrial production of the fourth district was mainly geared toward Iraq's markets, and the interests of the areas' truck drivers lay in opening those markets.(12)

The diversity in the banners addressing the Israeli-Palestinian accord indicated a deep split in Jordanian society between those who were in favor of the autonomy talks and those who were against them. This ideological conflict was not only over the Israeli-Palestinian talks, but also over the identity crisis felt by many Palestinians regarding their future destiny and allegiance. The conflict centered on whether or not Palestinians in Jordan should stress their historic rights to their homeland while at the same time holding on to full-fledged political rights in Jordan. These feelings were exemplified in banners supporting the PLO, and at the same time rejecting the idea of turning Jordan into a homeland for the Palestinians; to those which focused on eventual unity between Jordan and the future Palestinian state in some kind of federation; and to banners opposing the idea of an independent Palestinian state and calling for unity on equal basis between the Jordanian and Palestinian people.(13)

What is interesting in this campaign is that unlike the 1989 elections, there was a strong emphasis on women and the role of women in society by all candidates, regardless of their political orientation. Islamists insisted that women were the "sisters of men," while others called for amending the laws to the advantage of women, working to get women elected to parliament, and calling for achieving equality at all levels. This female "awareness" was mainly to attract women voters under the new one-person, one-vote formula which made competition tighter and not really to endorse the participation of women in the political process on an equal footing. This was evident in the abstention of all parties, regardless of their political orientation, from fielding a female candidate.


The election campaign began on jittery grounds due to rumors that the elections would be postponed as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian talks. All political forces were against postponement and saw that as tantamount to jeopardizing the democratic process. However, once the government declared its intention of holding the elections, it wrecked havoc on most politicians. Political parties including the Islamic Action Front (IAF) (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood established in 1992) and leftist parties thought that the elections were going to be delayed and had banked on more time to prepare for them. This confusion was intensified with the adoption of the one-person, one-vote formula.

The legal change introduced new ways in which the electorate voted, and in the manner by which candidates conducted their campaigns. This was demonstrated in campaigning methods adopted by independent candidates and political parties; in the way the tribes organized themselves for the campaign; and in the way voters attempted to define their identity.

The electoral change had a dramatic impact on the way electors felt. It centered their attention on their clans, tribes and source of origin (whether Palestinian or Jordanian) rather than on ideologies and issues. Since the voters only had one vote to cast, the electorate's mood was to prioritize where its first allegiance lay. This was illustrated clearly by tribes taking out full-page advertisements in newspapers supporting their tribesmen, and in public gatherings at the headquarters of family associations for the purpose of backing the candidate from their hometown.

Grasping this fact, candidates in turn focused mainly on nurturing their allegiance to the tribe/clan or regional identification rather than on attempting to transcend those barriers and campaign on the basis of a coherent ideology and program (with the exception of a few leftists and progressives). To attract voters, candidates highlighted local and regional issues in their electoral districts, rather than national grand issues.

The change in the law and the social composition of Jordanian society affected not only the way independent candidates ran their campaign but also political parties' campaigns. Capitulating to the significance of tribal identification in winning votes, many political parties fielded candidates who enjoyed strong tribal backing. For example, to pull tribal votes, the IAF backed Salama al-'Assaf, a leader of his clan, in Amman's fifth district, and Bassam 'Umush from the Bani Hasan tribe in Zarqa'. The IAF also fielded tribal candidates to compete against prominent fellow non-IAF tribesmen. This was the case in Rayman, in the Jarash district, where it backed Sulayman al-Raymuni against the millionaire businessman, 'Isa al-Raymuni.(14) But it abstained from fielding any candidates in the Ramtha and Bani Kinana districts, as well as in the Northern and Central bedouin districts, where tribal identifications were the overwhelmingly predominant factors affecting candidates' choice.

Although the IAF and leftist parties presented party lists or endorsed their candidates, centrist parties did not endorse their own candidates but rather allowed them to run as independents.(15) By avoiding endorsing their candidates as party members, these parties attempted to circumvent lingering public fears about political affiliations. These fears date back to the 1950s when political parties were banned, martial law imposed and a state of emergency declared, and to the subsequent political repression. Winning the non-politicized tribal votes in an election where tribalism was paramount forced these parties to "play it safe."

The capitulation to tribal affiliations was not confined to Jordanians of East Bank origin. Many Jordanians of Palestinian origin also vied for the support of voters from their original hometowns in Palestine. For example, in Amman's second district Palestinian candidates competed for the Hebronite (people from Hebron area) vote, while in Zarqa', Fayad Jarrar wooed the Jenin clans.

The change in the law also affected the way the tribes organized themselves. To succeed in the elections, the tribes had to devise modern political tactics. Many of these tribes democratically and unanimously elected one candidate to represent them. However, this was not always the case. Several tribes failed to field a single candidate, like the Jazi section of the Huwaytat tribe, the Fayiz and Zaban sections of the Bani Sakhr tribe, and the Majali tribe. By dividing the vote, these tribes decreased their prospects of winning seats.

The new electoral formula also highlighted the polarization within Jordanian society between Jordanians of East Bank origin and those of Palestinian origin. This polarization made candidates carefully calculate how to win votes, which they did through campaign slogans as well as through visiting family associations. The supremacy of origin over ideology also led political parties to segment the various constituencies into ethnic blocs to pull their votes. In Amman's fifth district, the IAF seemed to have divided the constituency into ethnic groups, encouraging two of its Palestinian candidates, Muhammad Abu Faris and Humam Sa'id, to focus on the Palestinian constituency while prompting Salama Al-'Assaf, a leader of a Jordanian clan, to concentrate on winning East Bank votes.(16)

Finally, the new electoral law forced candidates to think in strategic political terms about their campaign tactics. Some moved from one electoral district to another where they felt they enjoyed more support, either on tribal and ideological bases or on the basis of origin. For example, Tujan Faysal, a liberal Circassian, changed her candidacy from Amman's fifth district to the third because the electorate in the former would probably have voted along tribal or Islamist lines, while those in the third - Amman's most liberal district - would have probably voted for someone advocating a change in society.


The elections resulted in the overwhelming victory for non-ideological tribal representatives and centrist forces. The combined number of seats won by party representatives, leftists/Arab nationalists, and the IAF were only thirty-one seats. Seven leftist/nationalist candidates won in the 1993 elections compared with 13 in the 1989 elections. The IAF was able to win 16 seats (although it fielded 36 candidates), while centrist parties won eight seats.

The winners in the elections were those who were able to secure the backing of their tribes and tribal allies. The size of the candidate's tribe, the ability of the tribe to close its ranks behind its candidate, and its financial clout, were all factors influencing the results. For example, in the Bani Kinana district, Talal 'Ubaydat of the large 'Ubaydat tribe (10,000 eligible voters) won, while candidates from smaller families like the Malkawi family (3,000 eligible voters) faced tougher odds. In many cases, the traditional heads of the biggest tribes won due to a lingering belief in tribal hierarchy. The interesting fact is that regardless of the qualifications of the tribal-approved candidate or his political affiliation, the tribe closed its ranks behind its candidate to ensure victory and reap the prestige it brings. This hierarchy also undermined the chances of many in the younger generation to compete successfully in the elections (such as in the Hadid tribe and the Fayiz section of the Bani Sakhr tribe, where young candidates ran against tribal elders and lost). Tribal hierarchy was also supported by allying tribes who voted for the tribal leader.

The biggest surprises in the election results were the election of the first woman candidate to parliament and the decline in the strength of the Islamists. The election of Tujan Faysal can be attributed to the minority quota guaranteeing a seat for Circassians, the coordinated efforts of males and females in Amman's liberal third district who wanted to see a change in Jordanian politics, the opposition vote cast by Christians against Islamist candidates,(17) and the strong and charismatic character of the candidate. This was all the more notable given the vicious attacks directed against her by Islamists in 1989, when they accused her of apostasy. Thus a woman was able to break into an all-male stronghold without tribal backing, financial clout, or party endorsement.

The decline in seats won by Islamists can be attributed to several factors. The first was the change in the electoral law to the one-person, one-vote formula. Despite the fact that the IAF is still the largest single politically-organized bloc in the new parliament, it was only able to gain 16 seats in 1993 compared to 22 seats in the 1989 elections. In 1989 the Muslim Brotherhood was able to strike alliances for votes not only between its members and independent Islamists but also between itself and leftist or Christian candidates. This tactic of alliance-building and joint-voting lists enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to win 22 seats in parliament while in this round of elections, each of their candidates had to compete alone for as many votes as he could.

Secondly, the impact of the electoral change in focusing on tribal identification and source of origin rather than ideologies and issues negatively affected the IAF. The IAF's 'Abd al-Latif 'Arabiyat, three-time speaker of the house in the previous parliament and a strong candidate of Jordanian origin, failed to be reelected from the Balqa' district because residents of the Baqa'a refugee camp voted for a Palestinian candidate instead.(18) This proved that the IAF could no longer depend on the support of others outside its own ranks, it also proved that Jordan Valley voters would choose one of their own rather than supporting an IAF candidate.

Finally, voters were more pragmatic than in 1989. After joining parliament in 1989 and participating in one government, the Muslim Brotherhood-IAF became a political force to be judged on the basis of its competence/incompetence like any other party, rather than perceived as a religiously-oriented protest movement.

Other political parties similarly fared poorly. Leftist parties failed to agree on a joint list of leftist/nationalist candidates which would have increased their chances of winning. Thus the Progressive Socialist Party ran against a Ba'thist in the same district, thus weakening both parties' chances. Only the People's Democratic Party (Hashd) and the People's Unity Party (Wahda) fielded a joint list. The competition between leftist parties and the splits within their ranks opened the door for tribal and IAF candidates. Moreover, leftist parties have been unable to adapt to the new realities in Jordan following liberalization. These realities require mass mobilization at the grass-root level rather than ideological campaigns and dependence on past popularity. Observers noted that in the final analysis, votes for leftist party candidates were also cast on the basis of clan/personal affiliation rather than on party support.

As noted, the elections highlighted the polarization in Jordanian society over origin. In Amman's third district, the demarcations were clearly drawn: Jordanians of Palestinian origin voted for Tahir al-Masri (originally from Nablus) while Jordanians of East Bank origin voted for 'Ali Abu al-Raghib (from al-Salt).

The vote by Jordanians of East Bank origin for their kind was due to fears that their interests would be put aside in any future settlement of the Palestinian issue, as well as a belief that Jordan stands to lose politically and economically from the peace agreement. Some felt that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement would not result in increased financial aid and foreign investment for Jordan but rather a standstill in the real estate market, a banking recession, and hindrances to Jordan's ability to market its products and compete under Israeli controls and tougher competition.(19) Thus, many Jordanians felt that they had to defend a purely "Jordanian" agenda. These concerns were also expressed in the pronouncement made by the governor of the Central Bank of Jordan, Muhammad Nabulsi, who noted that the Palestinians' attempt to set up their own central bank and issue their own currency, would be damaging to Jordan, especially in the spheres of trade and investment.(20)

Some candidates tried to present themselves as transcending ethnic, regional, and religious lines. However, they faced slim chances of success in a system dominated by tribalism and nationalism. For example, Faris al-Nabulsi - who enjoyed great support due to his progressive views in parliament and his stance against corruption - failed to win reelection because he did not "come up with a very clear portrayal of one identity at a time when the mood of the voters was to make statements of identity rather than a statement of ideals."(21)


We can draw several conclusions from the 1993 parliamentary elections in Jordan. First, the balloting infrastructure (erection of polling stations and procedures for counting votes) and the acceptance of the election results are a clear sign of the maturing of the democratic political process in Jordan. The elections were an integrative mechanism; very few were left out of the electoral process. Secondly, the elections underscored the predominance of tribalism, financial clout, and place of origin - rather than political ideologies - in governing voters' decisions. Political parties did not use the elections as a stepping stone for raising political consciousness related to their programs, but largely dealt with the objective conditions and discourse present in society. This led to the localization of the national elections which was accentuated by the fact that there were no concomitant elections on the local level which would have engendered real political life and politicized issues in the national elections.

Whether or not the parliament which emerged from the elections is representative of Jordanian society remains a question. The fragmentation of the electoral districts, as well as the large number of contenders for seats in the various districts compared to the number of registered voters, resulted in a narrow representation of each constituency in parliament. Moreover, despite the government's insistence that the elections were free and fair and that it would not affect the parliament's composition, the measures it took prior to the elections - including changing the electoral law, banning public meetings, and its negligence in regulating the voting process - led many to cry foul. Fifty political activists, parliamentarians and candidates signed a petition alleging that the elections were neither fair nor free.(22) They also complained about "irregularities" in the process of voter registration, voting-card collection (where many voters' cards were collected by candidates and not by the voters themselves) and even the method of casting votes.(23) Moreover, some 2,000 people from Irbid organized a peaceful march to oppose the election results. Protestors demanded holding officials supervising the elections responsible for irregularities.(24)

The elections were not meant to effect real political change, for the electoral system in Jordan works for a limited purpose: to turn elections into a toothless debate on general issues while the regime works to ensure the selection of a docile, pro-establishment parliament which, with its limited powers, has no real influence on major issues anyway. Thus the real winner in the recent elections was neither tribalism nor regionalism but rather the regime. The parliament elected in November 1993, with at least 55 pro-government members in the House supported by the 40 Senators appointed by the King, will surely act merely as a rubber stamp for the regime's policies at a time when Jordan faces tremendous challenges.


1. I owe much to the contribution and the "1993 Election Archive" of Widad 'Adas and Muhammad al-Masri.

2. Al-Dustur, 9 November 1993.

3. Members of the military, police, general intelligence, and civil defence are excluded from voting.

4. The Jordan Times, 6 November 1993.

5. Al-Urdun Al-Jadid Research Center, The 1989 Election Facts and Figures, (Amman: 1993), p. 15.

6. Kamel Abu Jaber and Schirin Fathi, "The 1989 Jordanian Parliamentary Elections," Orient 31 (1990), pp. 67-86.

7. The Jordan Times, 7 November 1993.

8. The Interior Minister Salama Hammad announced that he was "able, through active follow-up and monitoring, to secure the neutrality of all government departments, employees and all state executive bodies at all levels. . . . The election process was conducted smoothly and freely without any obstacles or any intervention from any individual or party." The Jordan Times, 15 November 1993.

9. The Jordan Times, 7 November 1993.

10. This was evident in the arrest, trial and later pardon of MPs Layth Shubaylat and Ya'qub Qarrash. Both were vocal opponents of government policies, the peace-process, and the regime's interference in the democratic process.

11. The themes in the three bedouin districts centered on bettering the conditions of these areas, such as strengthening the infrastructure of roads, schools, hospitals, employment, education, as well as on national unity.

12. The Jordan Times, 6 November 1993. This was similarly the case with the candidacy of 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Sayyid in the fifth district and Nasir 'Abd Allah Nasir in the third district. These two candidates ran mainly as advocates of Gulf returnees' rights.

13. This conflict over the future Jordanian-Palestinian relationship was not confined to these electoral districts but was also brought up when Palestinian candidates who were members of the Palestine National Council (PNC) registered their candidacy. The Interior Minister rejected their applications, a decision which was later revoked by the courts.

14. Raymun is a village of 3,000 inhabitants, 1,000 of whom are registered voters.

15. For example, 'Abd al-Hadi Majali, secretary-general of the 'Ahd Party, and Ra'uf al-Rawabda, secretary-general of the Yaqaza Party, campaigned as representatives of their tribe and avoided any mention of their party's program or affiliation.

16. Similarly, the IAF relocated candidate Hamza Mansur from Amman's fourth district, where he ran in 1989, to the second district. The reason was that the IAF decided to field a candidate with a strong tribal base in the fourth district while running Mansur in the mostly Palestinian second district.

17. The Christian community made a concerted effort to endorse the candidacy of a progressive Muslim since the quota system guaranteed the election of a Christian candidate regardless of the number of votes he acquired. Therefore, the Christians divided their votes between Sulayman Faris al-Nabulsi (a progressive Muslim) and Tujan Faysal, a liberal Circassian with strong views on the Islamists.

18. The Baqa'a refugee camp has 22,800 registered voters. It had three candidates running in this election.

19. The Jordan Times, 14 November 1993.

20. The Jordan Times, 17 November 1993.

21. The Jordan Times, 13 November 1993.

22. The Jordan Times, 24 November 1993. The statement noted that the government's measures included dissolving the parliament without any legal justifications, imposing the one-person, one-vote formula without parliament's approval, initially banning election campaigns, and alleged rigging of the election results.

23. To prevent their rivals from gaining votes, candidates collected some of the voting cards or simply hid the cards to eliminate the competitor's vote. Many voters alleged that they were denied their right to vote because someone collected their voting cards without their consent. The Jordan Times, 10 November 1993.

24. Thirty candidates sent a cable to the King explaining their position. There were also protests in Amman's fifth district against the inaccuracy of the number of registered voters and discrepancies in the number of votes received by contestants and those announced officially. See The Jordan Times, 11-13 November 1993.
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Author:Amawi, Abla M.
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Date:Jun 22, 1994
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