Election Law & Selective Representation

As part of a final paper I’m working on, I requested, and obtained a copy of a M.Sc. and B.Sc. thesis in Political Science at MIT, entitled “Containing the Opposition: Selective Representation in Jordan and Turkey”, by Raffaela Wakeman, who also worked in the Center for Strategic Studies in the University of Jordan for a while.

So, I went through a good chunk of it and read it, and while it reaffirms most of what we hear already about representation being the most fundamental problems, it also hows how fundamental a problem it is. Cities like Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa are between 2-3 times under-presented than Balqa’a, Karak, and others.

However, upon reading this, a very common fallacy also came to mind, in which the ruling power’s decisions are always rationalized on the basis of self-interest/ill-intentions, which I think is not the right approach. For instance, Jordan’s sheer under-representation of Palestinian-Jordanians in the parliament (or rather, under-representation of intellectuals in the parliament), is not part of a master plan to create a nation with an idle mind, or dominate the people, but rather (very unfortunate) measures to secure the 1994 Peace Treaty, or (very unfortunate) responses to events ranging from Abdullah I’s 1951 assassination, to Black September.

In any case, saying Jordan’s selective representation (which is a real problem) is a plan to “contain the opposition”, ignores the strong opposition that many Islamists as well as Bedouin “loyalists” possess to many crucial Hashemite plans.

I do hope the new election law is more representative. Current rumors are not so promising; Amman and Zarqa seem to be getting more seats, but not nearly enough.

My two-cents.