Policy Paper: Bridging Divides Between Political Parties and the Jordanian People

E.J. Karmel , Ali al-Batran
Identity Center
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National Democratic Institute (NDI)
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Policy Paper
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In 2011 Jordanians flooded into streets across the Kingdom. Even though Jordan boasts one of the most liberal and democratic political systems in the region, Jordanians chose to bypass formal means of political engagement in 2011. Instead, they coalesced into informal political movements that came to be known as hirak. With strong youth participation, the hirak pushed for extensive governmental reform and an end to endemic corruption. The emergence of hirak showcased a widespread lack of confidence in the extant political system. This was confirmed by surveys, focus groups, and interviews that Identity Center conducted, each of which demonstrated that most Jordanians do not believe that the government is working in their best interests. More importantly, the data also indicated that overall Jordanians neither trust the electoral system, nor view Jordan’s political parties as effective vehicles of political engagement. While Jordanians’ lack of faith in political parties is partially a result of a wider belief that the electoral system is futile, it is also a result of the inability of the parties themselves to effectively connect with voters. Members of Jordanian political parties who participated in focus groups and interviews for this paper argued that this disconnect is a direct result of governmental discrimination leveled against political parties and their members. They maintained that Jordan’s government and security institutions have discouraged partisan activity to such an extent that Jordanians – and particularly young Jordanians – are now afraid to become members of parties or even engage in party activities. On the other hand, surveys, focus groups, and interviews that Identity Center conducted with non-party members and former party members highlighted very different factors for the dearth of Jordanian participation in political parties. The non-party member participants conceded that both the pointlessness of the political process as well as government repression of parties played a part in their decisions to not join political parties, but they referred to these as secondary factors. Instead, research participants emphasised that their unwillingness to join political parties stems from the failures of the political parties themselves. They stated that political parties, unlike hirak, remain distant from Jordanians and rely on ineffective campaigns and abstract platforms to gain support. Identity Center has previously published works identifying the systemic problems with the political system and provided suggestions for addressing those issues. As such, this paper offers corresponding recommendations for political parties, so that they can begin to address the growing gap between them and the Jordanian people.

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