Jordanian municipal elections marred by low turnout as hope for change dwindles

Authorities have been encouraging the public to vote but polling stations were mostly empty by early afternoon

Voter apathy in Jordan's municipal elections

Voter apathy in Jordan's municipal elections
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Jordan's municipal elections - traditionally marked by poor attendance and voting along tribal lines - were held on Tuesday with official media reporting turnout at just 15 per cent by 2pm local time, half the final turnout in the last municipal elections in 2017.

All significant powers in the country are held by King Abdullah II, with the executive branch and local councils in charge of the daily provision of services.

The authorities, which have intensified a crackdown on dissent in the last three years, have been encouraging people to vote.

They declared Tuesday a holiday, and Prime Minster Bisher Al Khasawneh described the vote as embodying decentralisation.

Polling stations across the capital Amman, many installed at government schools, were mostly empty by early afternoon.

Police carrying automatic rifles stood in front of the polling centres to ensure no disruptions.

The youth are never really heard. None of my friends I think will vote.
Ibrahim Mseis

In Jabal Weibdeh district, a couple who run a family accounting business said they voted for clean candidates for the Amman municipality who did not attempt to lure voters with money.

“It will take us 40 to 50 years for the civil society to be effective and have an impact on decision making,” said Jamal Abu Darwish.

His wife, Inshirah Abu Eishe, said she voted for young candidates out of “duty”.

Weibdeh is one of the original seven hills of Amman. The city, situated in a semi-desert landscape, is home to 40 per cent of Jordan’s population of 10 million.

Despite a rapid rise in Amman’s population in the last decade, roads and other infrastructure have barely improved.

An estate agent in Jabal Weibdeh said he did not vote because “none of the candidates can turn things around.”

At a cafe frequented by young people in the district, Ibrahim Mseis, a customer, did not even know there were elections going on.

“The youth are never really heard. None of my friends I think will vote,” said Mr Mseis, a supply chain specialist.

More interest in the polls was reported in outlaying areas, where clans traditionally hold meetings to reach a consensus on which candidates to back several months in advance.

Hiba, a blue collar worker from Ramtha, a northern city at the border with Syria, said she purposefully stayed away from her home town because her father would pressure her to vote for a relative.

“Since I was in fifth grade, and it is more or less the same people who control the municipality in Ramtha,” the 34-year-old said.

Updated: June 19, 2023, 12:26 PM