Following the Jordanian parliament’s dissolution last summer, the country’s authorities averred that the next elections would continue the royal roadmap of democratic reform.
“Reform” has been the royal buzzword since thousands of grass-roots protests roiled the kingdom during 2011-12, with major initiatives including constitutional amendments and a new elections law tied in royal discourse to a future vision of parliamentary democracy. Billboards imploring high turnout thus plastered the country throughout September, competing for space with candidate posters, while officials chastised boycotters as being opposed to democracy.
Also lurking in the shadows was geopolitical symbolism: by holding successful elections, Jordan could show the world it was confidently marching towards peace and democracy, even as chaos and conflict consumed its regional neighborhood.
More than a month later, public discourse still resonates with frustration about the state of politics. Many Western observers assume that Jordanians remain so angry and jaded because elections remain so biased. True, foreign monitors noted that voting for the nearly 1.5 million citizens who cast ballots on 20 September (200,000 more than the 2013 elections) was mostly clean and fair. And youth activists turned out in droves to observe the voting.