Written by Musa Alshuqairi
Read Part I: Happy Trails
With the absence of political parties , and with the domination of tribal, religious and even ethnic attachments and devotion among voters, the overhaul in elections law has to be deep-rooted and maybe “radical”.
Since we cannot deny the fact that the voter is inexperienced (oppressive regimes continue to use the “ignorance” of the voter as an excuse for denying the people their democratic rights, without presenting alternatives of how to “educate” the voter), this law can temporarily limit his/her options. This may seem extreme and against the people’s “rights and freedom” to elect whoever they want, but, as proven by the past 16 years, the voter cannot be fully trusted yet. Temporary “limits” on his/her freedom could be more beneficial, on the long run, than the “unconstrained freedom” (using the term very loosely) that continues to produce disappointments and incompetent parliaments.
So the solution is a set of conditions (aside from the constitutional age, nationality and sanity) could determine the candidate eligibility to run for a parliament seat. Some suggested highlights:
-The “old-guard” who have been enjoying a strangle hold on the country for a quarter century are ineligible. (Abdel Hadi al-Majali/ Zaid Rifai’i, their offsprings, friends, business partners and second level family members) are out of the picture. You had your chance (and the inflated bank accounts), now please go away.
– Along the same lines, all previous prime ministers are ineligible. Your loyalty is not to the people, you too had your chances, and none of you made any significant contributions to the country. You cannot switch sides now.
– Notorious corruption figures, smugglers, arm dealers, “sharks”, robbers, and the regime parasites are ineligible. (Remember this is Jordan; population: 5.5 million). It may sound like generalising, but this group can be easily identified.
– Former and current officials of the internal intelligence department and police are ineligible. You cannot torture people one day and represent them the next. Also, former and current high ranked Army officers – some of the worst regime beneficiaries whose loyalty will never be to the people they are supposed to represent.
– Tribe leaders who exist in a social structure more suitable for the middle-ages are ineligible. This is not a folkloric art exhibit that needs a historic figure in his traditional costume. There are attempts to build civil societies here, and the people this sheikh allegedly represents are far better off being represented by someone else. They just don’t know yet.
– Illiterates are ineligible. Passing a qualification exam is a condition for candidacy. As a representative of the people, the candidate is expected to have basic knowledge of the history and geography of the country and the world, basic math skills, basic economics skills, and a sense logic to be able to analyse and draw conclusion. (The Ability to write a two-paragraph essay and the ability to read an excerpt without making grammatical mistakes could be shooting too high though). A psychological screening to ensure mental stability and a drug test are also recommended.
– A limit on the number of candidates (a percentage of the total seats) from the same political party. An “independent” candidate who is revealed (through his political program and agenda) to be affiliated with a party that is already exceeding the maximum number of candidates becomes ineligible. (The anti-Islamic brotherhood domination rule).
– The suggested rules and restrictions, along with the procedure of their application are the responsibility of academia (it is about time that the numerous universities contribute to society). College professors and their research teams review, investigate, survey and suggest a set of regulations, that helps present the voter with the best candidate. The set of laws are reviewed after each election term until all candidacy restrictions are eventually lifted.
– As a more general rule, serving in the parliament is considered voluntary work and a public service. No salaries, allowances, cars or other privileges are to be associated with the parliament member position, especially those furnished by the government, since it causes a conflict of interest between the legislative and the executive branches. (The problem is if the position loses its privileged status, it is probable nobody would want to run anymore!)
Now, the results of this true national representation, selected outside of the traditional random procedure will help guide the the voter outside the lines of tribe and religion. Hence, the success of such “controlled” representation will allow him/her to appreciate the effect of a strong committed parliament. By the following next term elections, the population who was given the opportunity to experience the new faces will be more capable of distinguishing the worthy candidates.
Of course, this brings us back to the initial point. Even if the election process achieved the perfect results, it would remain insignificant as long as we won’t dare to begin addressing the elephant in the room.