Photo: Mohamed Azakir

Jordan’s political background

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. Although there are democratic elections, in reality the king holds all power. The king appoints and fires governments as he sees fit, and the parliament is weak. This is due to a number of reasons. For one, Jordan does not have a culture of political parties. They were forbidden until 1990, and even with attempts to liberalize and democratize the system, the laws only allow a limited role of political parties. This affects their ability to influence politics, but also their ability to develop programmes and connect to the Jordanian people. Both the government and the population are used to direct dealings between the tribes (or other interest groups) and the king or government.

In 2011, the Arab Spring triggered unrest in Jordan, where demonstrations were held against socioeconomic decline and corruption. There was also a call for constitutional reform and a new election law. The king has responded to this call with several measures, the most promising being the revised election law. In the new law, the single non-transferable vote system (SNTV) has been replaced by an at-large voting system, also known as multiple non-transferable vote (MNTV). This encourages political parties to develop political agendas and build constituencies. In 2012, an Independent Electoral Commission was established. In 2012, a new law was also enacted that forbade the establishment of parties based on religion. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in September 2016.

The outbreak of the civil war in neighboring Syria has also had a profound impact on Jordan. As of the summer of 2015, Jordan has received over 620,000 Syrian refugees, which has negatively affected Jordan’s fragile economy and society. The country already faces problems, such as the bad state of the economy, water scarcity, and unemployment. This is a potentially dangerous and destabilizing situation.

NIMD in Jordan

NIMD’s involvement in Jordan dates back to 2012, when we undertook several scoping missions at the request of the Netherlands embassy. A collaboration with the Amman-based Identity Center produced a mapping of the political parties and political movements in Jordan, identifying their geographical locations and their positions on key issues. NIMD also supported 18 regional dialogue meetings in which political movements and parties were able to discuss the political agenda and policy ideas. It did not then seem timely to start up a full country programme, but in 2016, political developments brought about a re-assessment of possibilities in Jordan.

One of the key features of the Jordanian political system is the lack of participation of youth. NIMD would like to address this issue by offering a comprehensive training programme for both young members of established political parties and young activists with political aspirations. The aim is twofold. Firstly, to invest in future leaders and help to create networks and relationships between them. Secondly, to equip them with the skills and knowledge required to engage with the current political system.

The next steps are to confirm our proposed approach, to further elaborate on the programme, and to identify local partners. The new programme is expected to commence in the second half of 2017.