Nov 11, 2020 - World

Jordan holds election amid sharp coronavirus spike

Election posters in Amman. Photo: Laith Al-jnaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Amman — Jordanians went to the polls on Tuesday to vote for members of their only elected body, the House of Representatives.

Driving the news: The pandemic contributed to a very low turnout of 30%, down from an already low 37% at the last elections in 2016.

  • The big winners were candidates representing tribes in addition to pro-government candidates. Candidates from left-wing, progressive and nationalist lists fared badly.
  • The Islamic Action Front, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was only able to win seven seats, down from 15 in 2016.
  • No female candidates won outright, only taking the 15 seats allotted to women under a quota system.
  • Many well-known politicians were unable to win a return to parliament.

Why it matters: The failure of any single list or party to win a significant share of seats will further strengthen the Royal Palace and the government, which will be able to govern freely and rebuff any attempts to obstruct its policies. It's a good result for the king and the security forces.

  • The elections were overseen by the Independent Election Commission, established after the Arab Spring. The constitution still gives the king the power to appoint the prime minister, Senate and judges.

As soon as polls closed, Jordanians were ordered to stay home for four days of lockdown to help flatten the coronavirus curve. The order came under emergency defense orders that have been in effect since March.  

  • The COVID-19 situation has also rapidly deteriorated over the last three months after Jordan kept cases and deaths low during the initial outbreak.
  • Jordan, a country of 10 million, recently recorded a daily record 5,877 cases — one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

What to watch: Jordan’s elections are taking place at a time of regional uncertainty due to the efforts of the Trump administration to push Arab countries into normalizing relations with Israel.

  • While Jordan was the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty for Israel, in 1994, it is also a strong supporter of the Arab Peace Initiative, which made future Arab normalization with Israel contingent on Palestinian statehood.

Worth noting: Jordan is strategically important to the United States, and it's the recipient of $1.25 billion in annual U.S. aid under an agreement signed by the Trump administration in 2018.

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