On the Lookout for August 15th

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Mon 13 February / Feb 2017. 01:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

This is not the first time Jordanians elect their Municipal Councils. They have been doing it for decades now.

What is, however, new this time is the recently passed decentralisation law, which allows citizens to elect their Municipal and Local councils on the very same day.

On August 15th, 2017, Jordanians will elect their Municipal and Local representatives by two very different systems on the same day; municipal and ‘decentralised’, which is extremely difficult and, organisationally speaking, requires an outstanding amount of proficiency and capacity.

These ‘Decentralised Local Elections’ are the first for Jordanians.

Generally, while six months may be enough to carry out the elections and raise awareness on the differences between the two systems and all, there are more important issues that need to be addressed for the success of these elections; prime of which are issues that have to do with the ‘Decentralised’ polls of what is known as ‘Local Councils’

We are about to dive head first into an unprecedented experiment in Jordan which already does not have enough support and backers within the parliamentary midst, who —maybe rightly— are sceptic of the very idea’s point in the first place.

Mindfully, local communities as well are clueless as to what benefit may come from Local Councils.

A vast segment of politicians, officials, and statesmen think that Municipalities should suffice as developmental and service hubs for the numerous districts and governorates of Jordan, and that there is no need for local councils throughout these governorates.

Also, within the government itself, there are ministers who do not agree with the whole thing, and see it no more than just incurring further financial burden on the Treasury, adding layers and layers of bureaucracy to the government decision making process.

Notably, not all who oppose it do so out of rejection to the idea in concept, but some actually are ominous of our persistence to hold it this year.

Accordingly, some see that we are rushing into an immature experiment; an uncalculated adventure we cannot afford at the time as we have not yet readied the administrative systems to incorporate a new addition to the body of municipal government.

Others, they see that the danger lies in the possible dispute over authorities between municipalities and local councils; that a conflict will surface between decentralised and central government, i.e. the State’s ministries.

Notably, the Decentralisation law entailed clear clauses on the capacities and authorities of the Local Councils and their relationship to the executive bodies of the State.

Likewise, the Municipalities Law also underwent revision and vast amendments were passed, which are very mindful of the new Councils.

Practically speaking, actual implementation is almost always full of surprises, as opposed to the seamless flaw of progress in clauses and legislation.

In practice, individual behaviour has always reflected on institutions and administrations.

In our situation too, it is inevitable that conflict arises between representatives of different national bodies throughout the governorates of the state; from MPs to Municipal Officials, as well as Members of the Local Councils.

Hence, we need to plan for every possible scenario, clearly outline inter-institutional-elect relations, and try to modulate legal clauses in accordance to practical experimentations which expose gaps and problems, in order to pre-emptively suggest solutions to them.

Those worried are mostly concerned for the Local Council model not by it.

No one can deny the added value of electing representatives with the power to select and rearrange developmental and service priorities for governorates, not to mention the capacity to direct allocated funds for governorate expenditures from the State’s central budget; cutting the distance from governorate to capital short in pressing occasions too.

However promising the success of this transition may be, we are not in a situation to afford failure.

After long, long years of shortcoming, municipalities are only lately beginning to recover.

The problem is that local governance seems to be showing signs of cachexia, and no one ones another administrative body weighing governorates down, atop of all their service and developmental misfortunes!

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.