A survey conducted by the American International Republican Institute (IRI) in Amman indicates 57 per cent of Jordanians do not intend to participate in the upcoming elections, and that 58 per cent of them have not reviewed the Elections law and do not know about the Independent Elections Commission (IEC).
Many analysts and politicians were shocked by these results; that this inferred a concerning indicator for the future of the elections process and the legitimacy of Parliament.
I say, with respect; they might have jumped a little too quickly into pessimistic conclusions.
Analysts missed the fact that their survey was conducted weeks before the Lower House of Parliament was dissolved, and before the official date of the elections was announced. The public rarely takes a seriously decisive stand; albeit to vote or boycott, before things clear up completely.
In our case, Jordan, it is obvious that the majority of the people had already taken a negative stand from the elections, from the survey, under the influence of the House’s poor performance at the time, in which the surveyed population had little confidence.
Even in some of the most prominent and ancient democracies, the per centage of the hesitant lot is usually high, but shrinks with the nearing of the polls.
In Jordan, election campaigns by candidates, the mobilisation these campaigns entail; tribal, party, or pragmatic aggregation, play a decisive role in shifting the mood of the electorate and enticing higher participation. The coming few weeks will see to prove this, as the countdown begins.
Those in doubt, can always go back to previous survey results, and compare them to participation rates.
The electorate are oblivious of the new elections law?
Yes, and it’s only natural. When the survey was conducted, it had only been weeks since the bill was ratified; a bill that is fundamentally different from the laws before. It is expected that fewer people will know about it or understand it.
The common electorate is not required to know the details of the elections law. It is enough for them to understand the calculation mechanism of the open proportion list system.
When the elections wheel come a-spin, and the campaigns take on, many will come acquainted with the details of the law, the polling mechanism itself, and the formation of the lists, among other basic information. By the time the polling begins, the majority would practically know the law. Added to all that, is the effect of awareness campaigns by media, currently active, on the electorate’s cognition of the bundle of legislation and special regulation for the elections process all throughout its different phases.
As for the IEC, the last time the Commission came in contact with the people was 4 years ago! We seldom remember what we had for breakfast; and we’re asking people to keep the IEC in their memories of 4 years ago?!
The upcoming phase will see direct daily interaction between the Commission and the electorate populace, and that would be enough to remind all of us of the IEC.
In regards to the IRI’s survey, among a variety of other concerning things, conclusions on elections and participation rates in Jordan happen to be not at all of concern.