Our Ambassador blogs about Jordan's "democracy".

November 24, 2016 22:57

Interesting to read how the foreign office views Israel's neighbour Jordan which is heading for a sham election. Our ambassador, James Watt, writes that many Jordanians fear that "the act of voting may seem to endorse a system they have little faith in".

James Watt blogs:

Jordan’s National Assembly elections on 9 November are approaching. For those of us who are onlookers, not voters, the debate and issues being raised are full of interest.

For one thing – as many Jordanians have commented – there is little campaign on policy issues as such, as you would expect in somewhere like Britain. Instead, much of the debate has been about how far the elections will go to reflect the true concerns of citizens. In other words, how likely it is that the new National Assembly will be representative of the range of opinion among all those eligible to vote.

As a result, for many people one of the main questions is whether to vote at all. Not just because they fear their concerns will be ignored, whatever happens. But because, as they see it, the act of voting may seem to endorse a system they have little faith in. The new National Assembly, they fear, would simply prevent the political development they feel Jordan needs.

As an onlooker, I’m not sure it would be like that. Political life is not confined to parliamentary activity. Above all, after what has been, in my view, a remarkable year. Starting in January, the Government took steps to challenge the media to be truly independent in its thinking, and to play a stronger role in promoting well-informed democratic debate. After some months of this message being misunderstood, the change has finally arrived. I am impressed by the quality of the debate being conducted in much of the media, as well as outside it. And most commentators are giving the government credit for being sincere in its attempts to promote transparency and order in the election process. It is clear from the Prime Minister’s own statements how committed the government collectively is to conducting fair elections. We have moved on from 2007.

In this positive atmosphere, I think a real debate about policy issues has emerged. And this is despite the emptiness of the campaign slogans and the absence of party platforms.

I find it hard to believe that the elections on 9 November will be the end of this debate, and this momentum towards political development. Instead, I think we are seeing only the beginning. The Prime Minister has given an undertaking that consultations on the election law will be resumed in the period following the elections, a move which will provide a focus for a national debate and for the emergence of a national consensus on what can be achieved. The media, and public opinion more widely, will have a major part to play in this, and will effectively set the framework for the discussion in the National Assembly.

To anyone hesitating over whether to vote, I would say go for it. Whether or not you think it is going to get exactly the result you want this time, it is a signal that you care about what happens in the future even more than now.

November 24, 2016 22:57

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