Jordan's King Abdullah issues decree to hold parliamentary elections

Poll set for November 10 as the economy retreats sharply

Jordan's King Abdullah II issued a royal decree on Wednesday. Jordanian Royal Palace / AFP
Jordan's King Abdullah II issued a royal decree on Wednesday. Jordanian Royal Palace / AFP

Jordan’s King Abdullah II decreed on Wednesday that parliamentary elections will be held this year, ending speculation in the kingdom on whether there will be a poll to replace the existing legislature amid the coronavirus.

The date of the elections has been set for November 10, with the World Bank not expecting any improvement in the economy in the near-term.

Official media said a royal writ stipulated “to conduct Council of Representatives elections according to the tenants of the law”.

The current 130-member parliament held its last session in March, when its four-year mandate ended.

Usually the king dissolves parliament ahead of the elections to lessen the advantage of incumbents.

Jordanian political columnist Amjad Tobeh told The National that parliament may not be dissolved this time in case the coronavirus situation worsens and elections cannot be held.

“This year it looks like the poll will go ahead with the existing parliament in place,” Mr Tobeh said.

Jordan’s parliament is weighted in favour of the country’s East Bank tribes. But ultimate decision making rests with the king, who holds the main constitutional powers, and commands the security forces.

Changes to the electoral law over the last eight years has allowed for some candidates to be elected on a nationwide basis, as opposed to local constituencies, without diminishing significantly the influence of the tribes.

In April, the World Bank expected Jordan’s economy, which has been stagnating in recent years, to contract by 3.5 per cent in 2020.

The coronavirus and “heightened regional uncertainty” will “pose further challenges for Jordanian economy,” the international financial organisation said.

The last elections in 2016 marked the return of the Islamic Action Front, a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, to parliament after a nine-year boycott.

The authorities banned the original Muslim Brotherhood organisation in the same year but allowed a splinter group close to the government to operate.

Despite relatively few officially recorded cases of the coronavirus in Jordan, the authorities have called for vigilance against the possibility of a second wave of infections.

The government has recorded 1,200 cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths.

The pandemic has compounded economic difficulties and increased tensions between the authorities and their critics.

Last week, security forces closed Jordan's teachers union and arrested members of its leadership, accusing them of incitement and corruption.

Updated: July 29, 2020 06:05 PM


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