Jordan to increase female political representation

Report by Rana Husseini for The Jordan Times 2011
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"We are very optimistic,” Amneh Zu’bi, president of the Jordanian Women's Union (national focal point of Social Watch), about the recommendations launched by the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) created by the government to reinvigorate the political life in the country. Among those suggestions, the NDC proposed an increase in female representation in Parliament and political parties.

Last week, Taher Masri, Chairman of the NDC created by Jordanian cabinet on March, handed the committee's recommendations to the government on measures to reinvigorate political life in the country, including new elections and political parties' laws.

The committee's decisions were reached by consensus, Masri said. The final draft of recommendations was put together after thorough discussions between committee members and various civic institutions, including opposition parties, political figures and youth groups.

"We are very optimistic about the committee's outcome regarding the expected increase in the number of women MPs and have exerted a lot of efforts to reach a consensus about it," said Amneh Zu'bi, who participated in the NDC as a full member.

If this suggestion is approved, the number of women in the Lower House of Parliament will surely increase by at least 20, and the female representation from each governorate will surely increase, according to the Jordanian Women's Union president said.

NDC’s priority was to agree on an elections law that produces a parliament representing all Jordanians, one that carries out its legislative mission in overseeing public sector performance and holding it accountable for its actions. The draft also simplifies party registration processes, alleviates administrative obstacles, and streamlines regulatory procedures.

Under the proposed elections law, the so-called virtual districts will be cancelled and Amman, Zarqa and Irbid will be divided into sub-districts based on population density. Quotas for Christians, Circassians and Chechens, in addition to a women's quota, are also set for each governorate.

Citizens can vote for any candidate competing for a seat on the national list, and the electoral system will combine an open proportional list at the provincial level another list, also proportional and open, on the national level. It also suggested establishing an independent national body to govern elections and political parties.

The NDC recommend extending the legislative sessions from four to six months, repealing articles that allow the postponement of general elections in whole or in part and the adoption of Constitutional amendments that would force a government recommending the dissolution of the House of Representatives to resign within a week.

The king would then mandate some leader to form a transitional government that would organise parliamentary elections within 60 days. The transitional government's mandate would expire once elections were held.

Both Zu'bi and Abul Sammen, the secretary general of the Jordanian National Forum for Women and another NDC member, said that the decision now lies in the hands of the MPs who will "uphold the committee's recommendations, reject them or make amendments to them".

Meanwhile, the proposed political parties law is bound to facilitate the formation of new parties. The new draft cuts down the number of founding members required from 500 to 250, of whom at least 10 per cent must be women.

"This will surely work to strengthen women's presence on the political scene of Jordan," Abul Sammen stressed.