Preliminary Statement of the Integrity Coalition of Election Observations on the 2016 Parliamentary Elections in Jordan

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Preliminary Statement of the Integrity Coalition of Election Observations on the 2016 Parliamentary Elections in Jordan

This statement is preliminary and covers the findings and conclusions of the Integrity Coalition of Election Observations on the electoral process only up to and including the 20 September 2016 Election Day. The Integrity Coalition will issue additional statements and a final report in a later stage.

Integrity Coalition for Election Observation
The Integrity Coalition for Election Observation is a coalition of 16 NGOs from across Jordan, The Coalition is led by the Identity Center, a Jordan based Middle Eastern Civil Society Organization specializing in political participation and Election Issues. The Integrity Coalition’s 60 Long Term Observers and 3,434 Short Term Observers have observed all stages of the 18th Parliamentary Elections in Jordan to enhance confidence and amongst the Jordanian people and to limit real and perceived manipulation of the election process in Jordan in 2016.

Preliminary Findings and Conclusions
The Integrity Coalition concluded that the electoral process was in general well managed from a procedural perspective, according to the existing regulations and legislation. However some problems remain with the legal framework and aspects of its implementation.

Legal Framework and Electoral System
In general. The Constitution specifies the fundamental rights of Jordanians. It provides for the rule of law to all Jordanians and prohibits discrimination on the basis of "race, language or religion." It also specifies rights related to key issues such as education, religion, the press, publications, and the right to assembly and to hold public office. Jordan has ratified a number of major international human rights conventions and established legislation and parallel national institutions for the implementation of the conventions. The legal framework governing elections in Jordan includes key legislation as stipulated in the Constitution, the election law, regulations on the demarcation of districts, executive orders and the law of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). The constitution lays the foundations of the electoral system and electoral rights. Among other key aspects, it guarantees the right of persons to vote and to run for elections. It also identifies institutions that can vote, voting conditions and transparency and conflict rules. With regard to the elections to the House of Representatives, the Constitution provides for the election of its members by general secret and direct election in accordance with an election law which shall ensure the following matters and principles: A) The right of candidates to observe the electoral process. B) The punishment of those adversely influencing the voters' will. C) The integrity of the electoral process in all of its stages. However, the legal framework puts some restrictions on the right of participation by specifying a minimum age of 30 years for persons who wish to run for the elections and this condition deprives a wide category of people, especially youth, from their right to run for elections. Additionally, the election law only allows those who are able to arrive at the polling station to participate in the elections, thus depriving all Jordanians living abroad and those who are imprisoned and in hospitals from practicing their voting rights. The law deprived the Bedouin voters from running for elections and voting outside their constituencies and did not give them the right to be registered in the voters’ lists of constituencies where they live.

Reducing the number of constituencies and increasing their geographical areas is considered a step forward with respect to the representation of citizens in the House of Representatives compared to the previous law, but the delineation of constituencies in the current system did not rely on clear standards. The normative international criterion is based on the equality of the vote to the extent possible, but government statements stressed that the delineation of constituencies and the distribution of seats have relied on three factors: Population, geography and development issues without clarifying what is meant by the last two (geography and development). The delineation of constituencies and the distribution of seats according to this system has led to an imbalance in population representation in the House of Representatives, where constituencies with high population density were represented by less than their percentage of the total population, compared to constituencies with less population density.

According to international best practices, the delineation of electoral districts should guarantee equal weight, to the extent possible, for each vote to ensure effective representation. As was the case with the 2012 election law, the new one does not specify a mechanism to ensure equitable distribution of seats among constituencies. This shortcoming had previously led to over-representation of rural communities at the expense of the densely populated urban centers. And although the disparity between weight of votes strength has improved recently, but it is still a big problem.

Registration of Candidates and Electoral Campaigns
The number of lists that applied for participation in the elections was 230, but only 226 were accepted. Three lists did not continue as some of their candidates withdrew and the number of remaining candidates became less than the required minimum of three candidates; one of the lists withdrew. IEC rejected the applications of twenty candidates. Regarding women participation, the total number of women candidates reached 252 out of a total of 1252 candidates and women percentage has reached 20. Compared to 2013 elections, the total number of women candidates increased by 37 candidates, i.e., by 17%.
Regarding partisan participation, the number of candidates who are members of political parties reached 215 (17%) of the total 1252 registered male and female candidates and these candidates are members of 40 political parties.

Election campaigns did not see major irregularities. Slogans used during the campaigns were overly broad and unclear dealing with big issues but without real viable electoral programs.

Elections Day and Results
In general, the Election day has not seen major problems that can affect the election results, with the exception of events that took place in the Central Badiya district. The closure of ballot boxes process was according to instructions in the vast majority of polling rooms, but there were some mistakes committed by committee members that did not have any real impact. The biggest difficulty was the counting of votes process and this difficulty emerged as a result of the design of the ballot paper, which was in the form of a booklet. This has increased the counting time in polling stations which saw a big number of voters.

In few polling stations there were problems in the cameras and screens. In addition, there were some cases of lack of cooperation with observers during the counting process. Copies of the results' minutes were hanged on the entrances of ballot rooms, but these copies were not clear.

The aggregation process at the center level was in accordance with instructions and it was smooth. Observers and agents were allowed to observe the process but when the materials and minutes were delivered to the aggregation committees at the constituency level, there were cases of disorder, chaos and lack of knowledge of procedures. Moreover, the entry of results process differed from one constituency to the other. Some of the constituencies re-entered the counting minutes at the level of the station for the whole constituency which made the aggregation at the level of the constituency take long time and in some cases it took two consecutive days.

Conclusion
The 2016 elections of the House of Representatives is considered close to an acceptable level of international standards, but there are opportunities for more development and for getting closer to the application of these standards.

The right to participation
1. The legal elections framework allows citizens to participate as voters and candidates, but it puts some restrictions on this right by specifying a minimum age of 30 years for persons who wish to run for the elections and this condition deprives a wide category of people, especially youth, from their right to run for elections.
2. The election law only allows those who are able to arrive at the polling station to participate in the elections, thus depriving all Jordanians living abroad and those who are imprisoned and in hospitals from practicing their voting rights.
3. The law deprived the Bedouin voters from running for elections and voting outside their constituencies and did not give them the right to be registered in the voters’ lists of constituencies where they live.
4. Furthermore, the law hinders the participation of public employees (civil servants) who wish to run for the elections by obliging them to resign 60 days prior to the voting day and this condition makes them hesitant to run for the elections.

Transparency
1. In the appointment of cadres, procedures were not fully transparent as many vacancies were not announced and interviews were held with candidates without prior announcement.
2. Despite progress made regarding special instructions on the finances of the campaign in terms of funding and spending, there is still a possibility for more progress by developing standards that ensure no cash payments and rejection of any expenses that have no tax bill.
3. Despite close cooperation between the IEC and observers, employees in the field, especially on election day, dealt with observers in a way that prevented them from fully observing the electoral process.

Equal suffrage
1. Reducing the number of constituencies and increasing their geographical areas is considered a step forward with respect to the representation of citizens in the House of Representatives compared to the previous law, but the delineation of constituencies in the current system did not rely on clear standards. The normative international criterion is based on the equality of the vote to the extent possible, but government statements stressed that the delineation of constituencies and the distribution of seats have relied on three factors: Population, geography and development issues without clarifying what is meant by the last two (geography and development).
2. The delineation of constituencies and the distribution of seats according to this system has led to an imbalance in population representation in the House of Representatives, where constituencies with high population density were represented by less than their percentage of the total population, compared constituencies with less population density.
3. The right to appeal
4. The legislative framework allows parties to the electoral process to appeal at all elections stages and within a reasonable time.
5. In cases of appeal, citizens of a number of districts have to lodge their appeals in other districts as there are no appeal courts in theirs and this limits the possibility of exercising this right.

The Elections Observation project is funded by the European Union

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