Jordanian political parties remain divided following the weekend release of the National Dialogue Committee's recommendations on political party and election law reform. While some political leaders and analysts hailed the report as a positive step forward, others said the committee's findings fell short of the required level of change.
Senate President Taher al-Masri, the head of the National Dialogue Committee, presented the recommendations to Prime Minister Maruf al-Bakhit on Saturday (June 4th). The Jordanian Cabinet formed the committee in early March and tasked it with holding consultations with representatives of political parties and organizations about the desired political reform for the country.
The report's recommendations include a new draft of a political party law that simplifies party registration processes, alleviates administrative obstacles, and streamlines regulatory procedures.
It also proposed a mixed electoral system, which combines an open proportional list at the provincial level (a total of 115 MPs) with an open proportional list on the national level (15 MPs). It also suggested establishing an independent national body to govern elections and political parties.
In addition to the draft election law, the committee's findings recommend extending the legislative sessions from four to six months, repealing articles that allow the postponement of general elections in whole or in part and the adoption of Constitutional amendments that would force a government recommending the dissolution of the House of Representatives to resign within a week.
The king would then mandate someone to form a transitional government that would organise parliamentary elections within 60 days. The transitional government's mandate would expire once elections were held.
According to Ali al-Shurafa, Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party, the committee's draft election law constitutes "progress and a positive step, for its reinforcement of partisan life and alliances strengthens the national fabric in a manner that contributes to the development of the institution of parliament."
The draft law "is flexible, advanced, and free of the negative aspects of the one-vote system and narrow constituencies"," said National Dialogue Committee member Mustafa al-Rawashda. "It also clears the way for the formation of partisan blocs and coalitions, thus enhancing [political] action and representation in Parliament."
The recommendations also "meet the aspirations of the Jordanian street and political parties", al-Rawashda added. "The draft election law grants them independence, as parties would refer to an Independent Electoral & Political Party Commission, and eases the conditions imposed on founders."
Mohammed Qatatsha, a professor of political science at the University of Mutah, told al-Shorfa, "The output is a success, as it was able to bring together the views of a broad spectrum of members spread between the extreme left and far right."
"The structure of the electoral system (proportional list) is an advanced democratic undertaking that is most compatible with the status of Jordanian society," Qatatsha added. "It is a distinctive beginning to build upon in the future."
Not all political groups, however, are satisfied with the Committee's proposals. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu Bakr told reporters that the Dialogue Committee's report, particularly the formulation of the election law, "does not attain the required level [of change]".
The Jordanian Islamic Movement "is in the process of conducting a study and comprehensive assessment of the output of the Dialogue Committee with regard to the election and political parties laws", Bakr said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic People's Party called on the government to exercise extreme caution before "forwarding the draft election law to the House of Representatives, and to listen to the opinion of all political parties".
Despite these concerns, political analysts seemed hopeful. Walid al-Zahra lauded the proposed draft election law as "an advance over the previous law in that it proposes the lifting of security restrictions, censorship, and constraints since [the elections] would not be administered by the Ministry of the Interior."
"The recommendations are positive, even if they did not meet all the demands of some political forces," said writer and political analyst Marwan Ayasra. "They are still superior to the current political status quo and constitute a leap forward in terms of Jordanian political reforms."