The development of the partisan scene in Jordan

  The development of the partisan scene in Jordan;
The dynamics, challenges, obstacles, and obsessions
  Politics and Society Institute
The public sphere in the country, in which no changes occurred gives the impression that there is a change coming.  
There is an impression that the formation of new projects for political parties is carried out through a process of political planning.

A group of experts and specialists in issues of democracy and political parties participated in a workshop held by the Politics and Society Institute on February 16, 2022, at the Institute, the participants discussed the assessment of the current situation and how to frame the roadmap to reach the development of partisan life in the country.
      In this report, we summarize the most prominent opinions, discussions, conclusions and recommendations in that workshop, as follows:
–    First – the workshop’s back ground: questions, themes, and objectives.
–    Second – Assessment of the current situation and the possibility of developing partisan life within this framework.
–    Third – Discuss some recommendations and conclusions in the workshop.

    A perceptible movement swept the Jordanian party scene on more than one level, whether it is pursuing to form new political parties or political currents and forums that pave the way for the of parties, or even waiting for the current political parties to approve the National Assembly’s approval of the parties’ law proposed by the Royal Committee to modernize the political system, and what it will lead to in terms of a year to correct the situation by these parties.
      The existing movements, activities, and discussions are necessarily related to the outcomes of the royal commission, whether in terms of the parties’ law, or even the election (which restored the national list, made it partisan, and granted it 41 seats, emphasizing the gradual progression towards a fully partisan parliament), On top of this and that, there are messages from centers close to the decision-makers confirming that the journey towards partisan and political life and partisan parliamentary governments is unavoidable, which moved the political elites once again to storm this difficult field.
     There are doubts and skepticism from the political elite, intellectuals, and academics about the possibility of building a strong partisan situation in Jordanian society, these doubts are reinforced by multiple and varied arguments. Some academics and intellectuals believe that the partisan project came to confront tribalism and replace it with new concepts that pave the way for an “alternative homeland.” ( which means restructuring the political system in Jordan to seem as Palestinian state), Other statesmen argue that they tried to cultivate parties on the Jordanian soil (environment) in the nineties of the last century, but the experiment failed because the social structure is of a clan nature, Others assert that forced birth is not possible for political parties, and with this broad trend comes the position of many political parties that are apprehensive about the process of correcting the situation, which will be reflected in a short process of removing and excluding them from the next scene.
      On the other hand, there are enormous imperatives behind the push for an active party life, based on a few competing program parties, the political process suffers from shortcomings and a major internal crisis, and the mechanism for forming governments has become obsolete and a subject of sarcasm at other times, As well as the youth movement in the street and its attempt to attract it into organized political and legal action, and the necessities associated with developing the work of governments to have programs that are truly capable of dealing with crises and problems, This means that it should have prior programs before reaching power, all of which is linked to an attempt to create a national political horizon compatible with the new centenary of the state.
      So, in the face of this conflict of opinions, attitudes, and trends, the main question is whether the experiences of other countries in partisan life help us in this area or not? Is there a theory that we can follow in the process of establishing and developing parties, or merging and activating existing parties, or do we have to build an approach linked to the Jordanian conditions and contexts?

      There are many questions and problems addressed in this field:
–    Is it possible to cultivate partisan life in Jordanian society?
–    What are the effective paths and approaches in this field?
–    How to establish a strong political party?
–    Are transformations related to technology, communication, and what is called street politics in the world today reshaping political parties?
–    How can political parties be attractive to the younger generation and able to attract broad social segments (groups)?
–    What are the types of political parties and what is the best way to classify the parties in Jordan?

Assessment of the current situation… beyond the outputs of the committee

      The participants were dominated by a non-optimistic trend in the reform path on the day following the stage after the outputs of the Royal Commission, the participants’ doubts centered on the fear of the continuing state of “foggy” and the lack of a decisive decision to move to a truly democratic path, replacing this with formal, not real, changes that are controlled and do not lead to actual results in the democratic process.

A-    Political environment and negative messages: Although the majority of participants agreed that the formation of the royal commission and the messages that accompanied it led them to be optimistic and actually feel that things might change effectively, even if it was not comprehensive or in the required form, it is possible to move steps forward, nevertheless, the day after the outputs, which witnessed constitutional amendments that withdrew the power of the Prime Minister, reduced the threshold of optimism, then the continuation of the existing equation and the interventions in the management of the political scene in general by the security apparatus, as this was another factor in another reduction in the threshold of optimism, then the elections of unions and local government came with the presence of interventions to manage the political scene, the dream of real changes began to evaporate and vanish.
     One of the participants believes that Jordan worked to “clone” the Moroccan experience, but took it in a distorted and inaccurate way, the Jordanian state encroached fears of partisan work over the actual role that parties can play in developing the political system, Therefore, the powers of the government have been withdrawn through constitutional amendments, and through the National Security Council, and whoever reads the Moroccan constitution and compares it with the current constitutional amendments (in Jordan) will find that there are clear differences that have made the Jordanian experience a real constraint on the process of the required democratic transformation.
      These developments created great doubts in public opinion, as seen by most of the participants, about the possibility of achieving real political change, and the feasibility of engaging in partisan and political work, if the existing rules of the game have not changed, and there will be no fundamental transformation in it!

     B- Partisan work between natural growth and “engineering operations”: Participants in the workshop did not see a problem in forming and establishing new parties at first, a phenomenon that occurred in many countries of the world, for example. In Tunisia, when the revolution occurred, all political parties were not authorized. Then, 116 parties participated in the parliamentary elections in the month of 10 2011, within six months. Currently, there are eight parties in Tunisia. In Spain, when the democratic transition took place, 161 parties went down. Today, there are 7 or 8 parties that have representation in Parliament. The high inflation in the parties is a natural phenomenon, and the street takes care of it. In the end, the party that is unable to send representatives to Parliament will perish, especially there is a threshold.
     The problem that we see in Jordan is “that the formation of parties takes place through an engineering process, the state forms the three parties, and this is a non-positive interference in the natural, logical path of the establishment. What is required is that the parties develop naturally and organically, an organic party from the bottom up….”, The participants added, “The problem of the state is that the parties that are formed organically are not desirable. The experience of the “civil alliance” is very clear. Parties are not allowed to form organically. Suddenly people from the governorates disappear under a process of pressure that they are subjected to not to participate in the party so that the party appears as West Amman Party.

      The participants conclude by saying, “We will go through a difficult experience. The state will try to control the party scene, and it will succeed in the short term, not the long term. we always feared the day following the outcomes of the Royal Committee, the problem is the next day, as the state is trying to forcibly control the political scene.”
       The participants compare the so-called “Makhzen parties”(the parties loyal to the king and regime) in Morocco and the parties that enjoy official Jordanian sponsorship, There, although some parties enjoy the support of the Makhzen informally, or close to the decision-making circles, they aren’t imposed on the street, and the way isn’t paved for them to overcome opponents. On the contrary, they enter into real competition and are sorted across the street, and the Makhzen allowed in Morocco, the former socialist opposition and the Islamists later came to the government position, and they were defeated through the ballot boxes, and therefore the issue is not engineering in the sense as it is happening in Jordan, and the experience there is radically different.
      The fears of the majority of participants do not go beyond the mentioned above, which is that the state does not want to see strong political figures, or parties that can attract an active social base, Rather, historical experiences that can be measured confirm the state’s fears of the strong partisan experience, beyond the Islamists to various political and partisan colors. The problem is not with a particular ideological party, but rather with the lack of desire for an effective political force.
      Another participant warns against the story of the continuous satire of ideologies, as if the party could rely on a program in the complete absence of the ideological part, and this is a completely false perception, Returning to the Jordanian partisan reality, it is the ideological parties that present programs and not the other way around, and therefore what is required is that there be a clear intellectual and political discourse that enables the party to attract a social base, and the discourse on which the program is based.
      The current scene is similar in Jordan to the 1990s after the National Charter when the Law of Parties was passed, and then the political elite started trying to form political parties, The country witnessed this wave of new political parties, but the one-vote law at that time hit the new project with death, as it gave preference and dominance to the social-clan factor at the expense of the partisan factor, which led to the failure of the experiment at that stage and ended in a state of frustration and negative results.
      The problem, according to participants, is that the state has not decided its choices regarding many issues, such as citizenship and exaggerated concerns about partisan life, on top of that, the state wants to change the party scene, but within a controlled framework. The scene may change, but the outcome will not change, the presence of several parties does not necessarily mean democracy, pluralism, and the transfer of power, if the political sphere is not incubating this openness, for parties cannot be born in an internal laboratory away from real political competition in the street.    
      Participants warned of a scenario in the upcoming elections represented by the inability of political parties to form a competitor to the Muslim Brotherhood, which may be used as a pretext that the development of the party scene in Jordan is ineffective.

Participants drew two main issues:

      For the first issue, that the world today has gone beyond the traditional form of political parties, as the “popular movement” in the street has become the most influential and present, Rather, the experiences of the formation of political parties in the recent period benefit from many global experiences to shifts (transformations) in the patterns of the process of the rise of parties, as they have become more dependent on popular and community movements, and charismatic leaders, and then take the form of a political party, this is related to more than one factor, including technological developments and the role of social media, which have reshaped and defined the public sphere, introduced non-traditional players, and curtailed the roles of traditional players, including political parties. From this point of view, participants in thinking before the parties called for building effective and influential social movements on the ground, due to the greater capacity they have in terms of organization, rhetoric, and mobilization than political parties for recruitment, propaganda, and polarization.
     The second issue, is that the current political parties, or signs of those that are forming, have not been able to attract the movements (Harakioun) in the street, in several governorates, This indicates that the problem of credibility and trust between the state and the trends of political actors has not been resolved, From there, it is necessary that the dialogue with the movement in street by the leaders of partisan and political projects, and to attract them to enter the political work through the constitutional and legal reform portal, Otherwise, the division in the street and the conflicting and marginal discourses will remain, and the street will be ready for any tensions or crises of a societal nature.

Discussing conclusions and recommendations

      It is clear from the opinions of the majority of participants and from the discussions that took place in the workshop that doubts and questions are still strong regarding the seriousness and effectiveness of launching the project to develop political life, and at the heart of that partisan work in Jordan and its ability to attract youth, women and broad social strata, and the source of these doubts are two things:

      The first issue, which is the general sphere in the country, in which no changes occurred that would give the impression that there is a change to come. This is something that can be summarized procedurally by the need to take concrete, firm and clear steps towards political openness, in the field of public freedoms and dialogue between state institutions and political forces, in terms of media freedoms, human rights and election integrity, and the separation between the security and political tracks and other fundamental values and standards in the democratic process, Effective political parties sprout in an environment suitable for them, and as long as this environment is confusing and unclear, the result is a tangible state of doubt not only in the workshop but also in many political circles about the extent to which it is possible to complete the path of modernizing the political system towards rooting and strengthening democracy.
     For the second issue, there is an impression that the formation of new projects for political parties takes place through a process of political engineering, and therefore there is a forced and not natural generation of parties, such a scenario will not succeed in the long term. The basic principle in political parties is that they take a natural method of establishment, growth, and competition, on one hand, even those political parties associated with the state or close to the official line, if we call them conservative parties, must not be dependent on the state in planning and engineering, rather, it takes an independent path and relies on itself in planning, recruitment, and elections, and it necessarily represents a segment or a social base that is not simple. Control from the outset on the partisan experiment will end in its failure in general.

Conclusion         Concluded from these discussions, it is necessary to take into consideration a set of measures and policies:
     First – To make a noticeable turn in political life towards generating spheres of dialogue and openness, working to remove instances of tension and bridging the obvious gaps between the state and political elites and activists, and giving workspaces to many political forces.
     Second – Developing the narrative and the media message associated with presenting an integrated vision of the political modernization process, linking the constitutional amendments, electoral laws, parties and the prescribed stages of the new road map.
     Third – There is no problem in the current partisan struggles. It is expected that the number of political parties will increase temporarily, a phenomenon that has been found in many experiences of democratic transition, But it is important to emphasize in clear political messages that the state does not sponsor certain experiences at the expense of others, and most importantly, that the state’s messages be consistent with the behavior of all institutions in general, so that the scene does not appear as if there is more than one discourse, agenda, or vision among state institutions.    
 Paticipants of the workshop:

–    Marwan Muasher – Jordanian politician and researcher.
–    Muhammad Abu Rumman – Academic consultant of Institute for Politics and Society.
–    Oraib Al-Rantawi, director of the Jerusalem Center for Political Studies.
–    Rami Adwan – Resident Representative of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
–    Saed Karajah – Jordanian researcher and politician, and member of the Royal Committee for the Modernization of the Political System.
–    Mohamed Al-Zawahra – Director of the Naya Community Network and a youth activist.
–    Hussein Abu Rumman is a researcher at the Al-Quds Center for Studies specializing in political parties.
–    Wael Alkhateeb- Political researcher.
–    Abdullah Al-Jabour – Director of the Citizenship Center and Political Researcher.
–    Obeida Farajallah – Director of the Hekaya Center for Civil Society Development, and a member of the Royal Committee for the Modernization of the Political System.
–    Ahmed Al-Qudah – Media and Communication Coordinator at the Institute for Politics and Society.

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