Parliament of Jordan

Parliament of Jordan

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As a developing constitutional monarchy, Jordan has survived the trials and tribulations of Middle Eastern politics. The Jordanian public has experienced limited democracy since gaining independence in 1946 however the population has not suffered as others have under dictatorships imposed by some Arab regimes [2]. The 1952 Constitution provided for citizens of Jordan to form and join political parties [3]. Such rights were suspended in 1967 when a state of emergency was declared and martial law and suspension of Parliament, continuing until it was repealed in 1989.

In 1988 King Hussein cut political ties with the West Bank following the Israeli occupation. Subsequently, civil unrest followed with Prime Minister al-Rifa’i alleged to have used heavy handed tactics against the population which resulted in riots in April 1989. After the riots had subsided the King fired al-Rifa’i and announced elections for later that year. The King’s action to re-convene parliament elections was considered a significant move forward in enabling the Jordanian public to have greater freedoms and democracy, this has been labelled by the think tank Freedom House as, “the Arab World's most promising experiment in political liberalization and reform” [4].

The resumption of the parliamentary election was reinforced by new laws governing the media and publishing as well as fewer restrictions on freedoms of expression. Following the legalization of political parties in 1992, 1993 saw the first multi- party elections held since 1956 [5]. The country is now one of the most politically open in the Middle East permitting opposition parties such as the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. The influence of the IAF significantly reduced in 2007 when their parliamentary representation fell from seventeen to six. The Monarch still holds the true levers of power, appointing members of the upper House of Notables and has the right to replace the prime minister, a step that King Abdullah II of Jordan took in April 2005 [6].

It has been argued that the influence of tribalism in determining Parliament election results in Jordan should not be overlooked; it is stronger than political affiliations. Tribal identity has a strong influence over Jordanian life: “…identities remain the primary driving forces of decision making at the level of the individual, the community, and the state” [7].

Legislative Procedure

Both houses initiate debates and vote on legislation. Proposals are referred by the Prime Minister to the House of Deputies where they are either accepted, amended or rejected. Every proposal is referred to a committee of the lower house for consideration. If it is approved then it is referred to the government to draft in the form of a bill and submit it to the Chamber of Deputies. If approved by this House it is passed onto the Senate for debate and a vote. If the Senate gives its approval then the King can either grant consent or refuse. In this case the bill is passed back to the House of Deputies where the review and voting process is repeated. If both houses pass the bill by a two-thirds majority it becomes an Act of Parliament overriding the King’s veto. Article 95 of the Constitution empowers both houses to submit legislation to the government in the form of a draft law [8].

The Constitution does not provide a strong system of checks and balances within which the Jordanian Parliament can assert its role in relationship to the Monarch. During the suspension of Parliament between 2001 and 2003, the scope of King Abdullah II’s power was demonstrated with the passing of 110 temporary laws. Two of such laws dealt with election law and were seen to reduce the power of Parliament [9][10].


Senators have terms of four years and are appointed by the King and can be reappointed. Prospective Senators must be at least forty years old and have held senior positions in either the government or military. Appointed senators have included former prime ministers and members of the Chamber of Deputies. Deputies are elected to serve a four year term. Candidates must be older than thirty five and cannot be related to the king and must not have any financial interests in governmental contracts [11].

Current Members of the Chamber of Deputies

The Parliament election results of November 2007 visibly demonstrate the lack of influence by political parties in Jordan.

  • Parties % Seats
  • Independents 94.5 104
  • Islamic Action Front 5.5 6
  • Total 100 110

Source CIA Factbook [12]

For a list of the members of the upper as well as lower house in the Jordanian Parliament as well as how many votes they gained in the 2007 election follow this link [13].

Currently, Jordan is not under a parliamentary system; King Abdullah II of Jordan has suspended legislation until at least November 2010. Parliamentary elections will be held on November 9th, 2010.[14]

Political Parties in the House of Representatives

Despite the reforms of 1989, multi-party politics has yet to develop in Jordan. The only political party that plays a role in the legislature is the Islamic Action Front (IAF). Political parties can be seen to represent four sections: Islamists, leftists, Arab nationalists and conservative. There are 34 registered political parties in Jordan including the Jordanian Arab Democratic Party, Jordanian Socialist Party, Muslim Centre Party, but these have little impact on the political process. Legislation regarding political parties was passed in March 2007 which made it a requirement that all political parties had to report to the Ministry of the Interior and have a minimum of five hundred founding members from at least five governorates. This was seen by some as a direct threat to a number of the political parties which are small in membership [15].

Public disillusion with existing political parties has been highlighted in research carried out by the Centre for Strategic Studies at Jordan University. The investigation concluded that in 2007 only 9.7% of respondents felt that the political parties represented their political, economic and social aspirations. Furthermore, 80% of respondents believed that ‘none’ of the political parties were ‘qualified to form a government’ [16].

Permanent Committees

Legal, Financial, Administrative and Foreign Affairs. Both houses have the ability to create committees when required.

Current Weakness of Parliament

  • The Legislature is subject to the power of the Monarch. He is able to suspend, dissolve, shorten or lengthen the term of session.
  • The Senators are appointed by the Monarch and not elected.
  • There is discrimination against urban areas which consists predominantly of Jordanians of Palestinian origin. This point is argued by Ryan [17] who maintains that the parliament has been dominated by conservative tribal leaders through the manipulation of electoral districts. He has described the institution as a gerrymandered parliament. Jordanian electoral districts are unequal in size, with electoral law over-represents rural conservative districts whilst under-representing urban areas which tend to be the historical base of Palestinian or Islamist support. Some constituencies have seven times as many constituents as others yet have the same number of parliamentary seats [18]. The strategy has resulted in a parliament overwhelmingly representing people from ethnic Transjordan and conservative background governed by tribal affiliations.
  • Although the Constitution makes positive provision for six female members of the lower house there is a gross underrepresentation of women in Parliament and little sign that this is being tackled. The lower house is dominated by conservative rural members as a result of the electoral structure and represents the most conservative elements of society. As an example, articles 97, 98 and 340 of the Jordan penal code offers leniency to those who have committed honour killings. Potential changes to the penal code backed by the King and the Senate have successively been rejected by the elected lower house, including in 2003 when twice in a month the recently elected parliament rejected an amended Penal Code backing stricter punishment for those committing honour killings [19]. In a survey amongst Jordanians 94% [20] of respondents believed that ‘honour’ killings were not morally just, yet this was not reflected in the actions of the lower house.
  • Low voter turnout has indicated that there is a problem with public participation in the democratic process, with the following turnouts for previous elections: 2007 54% [21] 2003 58% [22]; 1997 44%; 1993 47%; 1989 41% [23]
  • The electoral laws of Jordan which involve the ‘one person one vote’ system has been criticized on the grounds that individual’s are restricted to vote for a single candidate and not a party list even when there are more than one parliamentary seats available [24].
  • Practical issues have reduced the effect of Parliament with brief parliamentary sessions (November to March) and a lack of resources and support for members of both houses [25]
  • There has been a lack of involvement in Jordanian politics of political parties. This was further reduced through the Boycotting of previous elections by the IAF (1997) [26] which represented the only real political party as the vast majority of elected parliamentarians ran as independents based on tribal lines or families close to the king.

Democratization of Jordan’s Parliament

The Jordanian Parliament and its form of democracy are young in comparison to their western contemporaries. According to Kaaklini et al., “Since 1989, it [Jordanian Parliament] has become a more credible, representative, and influential institution. Still, serious constitutional, political, and internal hurdles continue to prevent it from enjoying the prerogatives and from performing the range of functions that are appropriate for a legislature in a democratic system” [27]. Judged against other states in the Middle East, Jordan has made significant progress towards a democratic system of government.

Despite the seemingly disproportionate power of rural over urban areas in Jordan’s democratization there is debate as to whether the Jordanian public will act for change, according to Parker, “Jordanians are much too concerned about ensuring there is food on the table to engage in the risks of public protest. The public mood is more one of apathy and resignation than of anger and vengeance.” [28].

It has been argued that the Jordanian Parliament is part of a democracy that has not been achieved by other states within the Middle East. However, in comparison to elected democracies as associated with ‘western’ nations, Jordan may not be considered to have occurred as the monarchy continues to dominate national politics, “…1989 elections brought unparalleled political liberalization and somewhat greater democratic input… although the political supremacy of the palace has been rendered less visible by the more active role of parliament, it is clear that a fundamental transfer of power into elected hands has not yet occurred.” [29].

See also


  1. ^ "World Factbook: Jordan", U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Countries at the Crossroads 2006 Country Report – Jordan
  5. ^ Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Profile: Jordan. March 2008.
  6. ^ UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Jordan: Year in Brief 2005 – A chronology of democratic developments. 15/01/2006.
  7. ^ Khouri 2003 p.147 as quoted in World Bank 2003 ‘Better governance for development in the Middle East and North Africa: enhancing inclusiveness and accountability’ Washington
  8. ^
  9. ^ p.148 Parker, C. 2004 ‘Transformation without transition: electoral politics, network ties, and the persistence of the shadow state in Jordan’ in Elections in the Middle East: what do they mean’ Cairo Papers in Social Sciences Vol. 25 Numbers ½, Spring Summer 2002 Cairo
  10. ^ World Bank 2003 p.44 ‘Better governance for development in the Middle East and North Africa: Enhancing inclusiveness and accountability’ Washington
  11. ^
  12. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Jordan
  13. ^ Jordan - Government - The Legislative Branch - House of Deputies
  14. ^
  15. ^ Economist Intelligence Unit 23/07/2007 ‘Political Forces’
  16. ^ Dr. Braizat, F. Public Opinion Poll Unit Centre For Strategic Studies Jordan University 12/07 ‘Democracy in Jordan 2007’
  17. ^ Ryan, C. 10/07/2005 ‘Reform retreats amid Jordan’s political storm’ Middle East Report Online
  18. ^ al Rantawi, O. 10/07 ‘Jordan: Elections without surprises’ Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  19. ^ Sunday, September 07 ‘Jordan quashes ‘honour crimes’ law’ 2003
  20. ^ Sheeley, E. 2008 ‘An appeal to Jordan to stop honor killings’
  21. ^
  22. ^ United Nations Development Programme Democratic Governance Jordan
  23. ^ Ryan, C. 2002 ‘Jordan in transition: From Hussein to Abdullah’ Lynne Rienner Publishers London p.39
  24. ^ al Rantawi, O. 10/07 ‘Jordan: Elections without surprises’ Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  25. ^ page167Baaklini, A., Denoeux, G. & Springborg, R. 1999 ‘Legislative Politics in the Arab World: The resurgence of Democratic Institutions’ Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. London
  26. ^ Hamzeh, A. 10//11/2001 ‘IAF resignations rekindle tension with government’ Jordan Times
  27. ^ Kaaklini, A. Denouex, G & Springborg, R 1999 page 165 ‘Legislative Politics in the Arab world: the resurgence of democratic institutions’ Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. London
  28. ^ Parker, C. 2004 P.170 ‘Transformation without Transition: Electoral politics network ties and the persistence of the shadow state in Jordan’ in ‘Elections in the Middle East: What do they mean?’ Ed by Hamdy, I. 2004 The American University Press in Cairo Cairo
  29. ^ p.79 Brynen, R. ‘The Politics of Monarchical Liberalism: Jordan’ Political Liberalization and democratization in the Arab world’ Volume 2, comparative experiences: Korany, B. Brynen , R . Noble, P. Lynne Rienner London

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