Political parties’ law
One of the pieces of legislation to be discussed during the extraordinary session of parliament is the political parties’ law. I haven’t seen the full text of the law, but some of the more interesting components have been disclosed. These include raising the number of establishing members from the current number of 50 up to 250, with stipulations that the establishing members should come from at least five governorates. The proposed law also includes a mechanism for public financing of political party activities.
Despite the fact that there are around 30 licensed political parties in Jordan, only 6% of Jordanians feel that any of them represent their aspirations or interests (see page 10 here). Nahid Hattar has outlined what he sees as the four political trends in the country, which he called the conservatives, (economic) liberals, leftists and Islamists. As I said in the review, I really don’t find myself (and probably most people don’t see themselves) fitting into any of these categories.
Many of the licensed political parties are simple social clubs with no tangible political weight. The notable exception is the IAF. The largest centrist party is the ‘Ahd party built and paid for by Abdelhadi Majjali, the speaker of the house. There is a plethora of small centrist parties, which attempted to merge in the past under the banner of the National Constitutional Party. This merger failed due to personality clashes between the former heads of the individual parties that merged. We also have a couple of Ba’ath parties, a couple of communist parties and other leftist organizations with roots in the various Palestinian movements in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The idea behind the political parties’ law is to encourage the consolidation of the smaller parties and possibly to disband the smaller ones that can’t make the 250 member mark. The funding issue is designed to make larger parties politically and financially viable, and to discourage funding by regional or international forces interested in gaining influence in the country.
The political parties are not happy with the law. The IAF is quite happy with the current situation and is not interested in efforts to encourage other political parties, even if it means not getting public funding. While the coordination committee for opposition parties, dominated by the IAF, is opposed to the law, their only objection is that “the election and public meetings laws should have priority over the political parties’ law”.
Jamil Nimri adds that many parties are worried that they will not be able to meet the requirements of the new law, and that public funding will lead to undue government influence on their agendas and activities. Nimri adds that it would be easy to put safeguards on the way funding is distributed by way of clear mechanisms and formulas which are not subject to government discretion.
I have argued before that much of the weakness of political parties is not organizational or financial as much as ideological. The political parties are more involved in regional political debates than in local problems that touch on the lives of average Jordanians. I don’t think that you can legislate political relevance.