‘On the Cusp of Change’: An Academic Book Analysing Deficiencies within Jordan’s Political Parties

The Politics and Society Institute (PSI), in partnership with the King Abdullah Fund for Development (KAFD), has unveiled their new book titled “On the Cusp of Change.” Authored by Muhammad Abu Rumman, Abdullah Al-Jabour, and Wael Al-Khatib, the book presents a comprehensive analysis of the current political landscape, exposing critical structural deficiencies within major political parties.

The new book reveals that a majority of current political parties face structural deficiencies that hinder internal regularization in accordance with the new law. The current partisan scene is undergoing structural changes after the main modifications to the new election laws.

“On the Cusp of Change” provides an analysis of several variables in the study of parties, including those related to the basic leadership structure, grassroots, youth and women’s activities, political participation, geographical proliferation, financial resources, and communication and media capacities. The conclusion was that only a few parties demonstrate high competence in the mentioned fields, while most parties are affected by what the authors describe as the “inverted pyramid” phenomenon. This phenomenon refers to the party’s centralization in leadership, with severe deficiencies in the party cadre and an absence of grassroots support.

During the book signature ceremony, which took place in the presence of a group of politicians, the researchers presented several main results. These results include the lack of parties that rotate their leaders, the simplicity of the organizational structure of most parties, the weakness of the majority of political parties in political work, and the concentration of most parties in the capital, Amman. Furthermore, the book highlights the lack of youth and women’s participation in party activity, which contrasts with the announced official figures. The parties also display a noticeable inability to build communication and media capacities, limited geographical proliferation, and the ineffectiveness of most party branches in playing political roles in the governorates.

However, the book, based on field studies and more than 50 visits to parties, brainstorming sessions, and focus groups, indicates that the partisan scene will witness radical and major changes in the forthcoming period. This transformation is expected within the phase of regularization, scheduled to conclude in the middle of next year. The changes are attributed to the alterations in parties and election laws, leading to the disappearance of most parties in their current form. They will either merge and join larger parties or face challenges in achieving regularization, resulting in the emergence of several strong parties that will compete in the political scene.

The authors identify several major challenges facing the forthcoming party formation process. First is the challenge of building social and popular grassroots support for political parties. Second, is the challenge of enhancing party discourse and establishing closer connections with citizens and grassroots. Third is the challenge of internal cohesion, overcoming divisions, and prioritizing the collective interest over personal considerations. Fourth is the challenge of securing adequate funding. Finally, the fifth challenge is related to internal party building.

The study comprises an introduction, a historical narrative, and five chapters. Each chapter consists of several sections. The historical narrative presents a review and summary of Jordanian partisan life over a century, highlighting the factors contributing to the emergence of the partisan phenomenon and its evolution into the Emirate of Transjordan. It also examines the phases of partisan life’s development, local and regional challenges, and their impact on the parties’ environment and political actions. Additionally, it explores how partisan work has contributed to the acceleration of independence, the establishment of the Jordanian state, and the development of its political identity over the decades.

The first chapter of the study reviews the institutional structures of political parties, including their main forms, structures, and institutions. It delves into the differences between parties and their ability to strengthen their structures and institutions. The chapter also examines the issue of internal unity within parties and whether there is an alternation of leadership and responsibility or monopolization of power. Finally, it investigates the financial resources of Jordanian parties, their sources of funding, expenditure aspects, and the transparency of their financial practices.

The second chapter focuses on parties’ responses to proliferation within the governorates and their adoption of field plans that expedite the proliferation process. This involves measuring the extent of their participation in local, parliamentary, and syndicate elections, particularly the latter. Additionally, the presence of party headquarters and the affiliation of members representing diverse geographic and clan backgrounds are considered indications of a party’s proliferation and field effectiveness. Having an office or a party branch in a governorate is not enough; it must be active, effective, and capable of engaging with people’s concerns, daily services, and economic problems in different regions and fields.

The third chapter analyzes the age structure of political parties in Jordan and the political representation rates of youth and women in the partisan structure, focusing on leadership and decision-making positions. This chapter provides indicators of the parties’ ability, on one hand, to reach and interact with various segments of society, and on the other hand, their capacity to adapt and accompany the phase of political modernization, mandated legislation of parties, and the decisions arising from it. The study emphasizes that the proportion of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years should not be less than 20% of the total number of members, and the percentage of women should also not be less than 20% of the total number of members.

Additionally, the study sheds light on the formal and qualitative affiliation within parties. While some parties may have a large number of young members, this alone does not reflect the party’s strength and vitality in society or its ability to engage with the voters’ community. The study distinguishes between quantitative (formal) presence and qualitative presence, which influences the younger generation and their political peers. A similar analysis applies to the women’s faction within parties. Therefore, the real strength of a party lies not only in increasing the number of affiliated members but also in its reachability and ability to effect change within its political agendas and platforms.

The fourth chapter monitors the media and political communication status of parties, examining their capabilities in traditional mass media such as newspapers, satellite channels, and radio stations, as well as their use of modern means of communication, particularly in electoral programs and activities. The study also evaluates the parties’ popularity on social media platforms, especially Facebook. This chapter provides a numerical analysis of the effectiveness and capabilities of social media pages and their performance evaluation.

The fifth chapter delves into the current partisan scene, exploring questions such as the features of the current partisan landscape, how the new legislation and policies will impact party life, and the challenges facing political parties in the transition process. Finally, it addresses the requirements, conditions, and strategies for transforming toward programmatic partisan governments in the forthcoming period.

Back to top button