Jordanians will head to the polls on November 10th to vote in the parliamentary election. Amidst the pandemic and growing concerns of a collapsing healthcare system, many have called on the government to postpone the elections, but the government has refused to do so. This refusal to postpone may result in some voters boycotting the election, according to The Hill. However, many remain hopeful, as this pandemic has eliminated the social element of political campaigning in Jordan. Now, candidates with fewer resources may be able to communicate to large amounts of voters, as the candidates now only are required to pay a $700 registration fee to run for a position. The elimination of the social aspect of campaigning has also forced candidates to rely more on the policy elements of their campaign.
Others are less hopeful that there will be any meaningful change to the current political system. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), a political group in Jordan that had boycotted both the 2010 and 2013 elections, ended up winning 15 seats in the 2016 elections. Even if the group does not win as many seats in this upcoming parliamentary election, the IAF has the potential to impact change, particularly in tribal areas. Furthermore, the government has been an active agent in silencing dissident groups. As recent as early August, Jordanian security forces tear-gassed protesters who were demanding for the release of leaders belonging to the Jordanian Teachers Association. Members, particularly in Amman, had been jailed after expressing discontent and anger with Attorney General Hassan Abdallat’s order to shut down the union, after a two-year long battle between the Jordan Teachers Syndicate and the government for the union to stay operating.
In late July, police raided the Jordan Teachers Syndicate, arrested all of their board members, shutting down 11 of the 13 branches scattered across the country. The government then issued a gag order, including on social media, that forbid any individual from speaking out or criticizing their actions. Through both the power and presence of the IAF and the restrictive practices of the government, it becomes clear that Jordanians are limited in the amount of freedom their government allows. Even if these elections were to be held fair and freely, the continued abuse of power by the government and the influence of political parties still stands.
The Jordanian election could very much be overshadowed by the aftermath of the United States’ election, which becomes particularly dangerous if Jordanian citizens are not able to exercise their right to vote. The international community and media must pay careful attention to the political state of Jordan and the wellbeing of its civilians, as protests could occur that would easily be silenced by the government. Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have already been reporting on the injustices that members of the Jordan Teachers Syndicate have experienced but the international media has largely been silent about these imprisonments and even the election itself.
The health and safety of Jordanians also must be heavily considered, especially in the wake of a pandemic. Al Jazeera reported that Jordan has been one of the most affected countries by COVID-19, with 104,902 cases and 1,181 deaths. The country also hosts a growing number of Syrian refugees, which the government estimates costs the country around $10 billion annually. With growing socialization due to the protests and the election, the government must work to ensure its citizens are able to safely and freely cast their votes to mitigate the risks posed during the pandemic. If the government fails to do so, the international community, human rights organizations, and the media must protect the most at-risk populations during this time and report any hindrances to the election process to ensure human rights are upheld.