On 23 January 2013, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan held its first parliamentary elections in the context of the “Arab Spring”. Like previous parliaments, the 17th elected Lower House (the Upper House, or Senate, is royally appointed) will consist of an absolute majority of conservative and tribal candidates, providing the “reigning and ruling” King Abdallah II with a solid support base in both chambers. More than 75 % of the 150 parliamentarians can be considered loyalists, while about one fourth (ca. 37 deputies according to some reports) have a more independent and oppositionist outlook. The latter group is, however, very diverse, ranging from individual leftist and liberal secularists to independent Islamists, three of which represent the al-Wasat party, the biggest party in the future legislature. The future Lower House will also have 17 female deputies, two more than the women’s quota of 15 provides.
Arguably the biggest success for King Abdallah and his slow political reform process “from above” was the electoral turnout of 56.6 % of the registered voters (who formed about 70 % of the eligible electorate), even though this number means that – given Jordan’s very young population – only about one fifth of the general population went to the polls. International election observers have so far not found larger indications of electoral fraud or vote-buying, even though the Jordanian opposition which boycotted the polls argues to the contrary.
The parliamentary elections in Jordan were held under a revised electoral law (from spring 2012), which allowed for a new national list (27 of the 150 seats) as well as the introduction of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) overseeing the process. These modest, cosmetic changes, however, have not changed the built-in, structural over-representation of individual tribal candidates vis-à-vis candidates running on a party platform. Political parties thus continue to be largely irrelevant in Jordan. The new electoral law has also not substantially changed the gerrymandering of electoral districts, due to which the traditionally more government-critical cities of Amman and Zarqa – which also have the highest concentration of Palestinians, about 60% of the Jordanian population – are discriminated against the rural, Transjordanian areas which represent the traditional backbone of the Hashemite monarchy.