Women candidates enjoyed record levels of success in Jordan's Nov. 9 parliamentary elections. The country's new election law doubled the women's quota from six to 12 seats, and for the first time, a woman candidate from Amman won her seat outside of the quota system by amassing the largest number of votes in her district.
There were other firsts as well. Six of Jordan's 12 governorates elected the first women representatives from their region, and Myassar Sardiyah became the first Bedouin woman ever to be elected to parliament in Jordan.
As a result, 13 women will serve in the new legislature — nearly twice the number in the previous parliament. They will make up 10.8 percent of the membership.
Many women candidates conducted visible campaigns that were based on issues, emphasizing messages of change, ending corruption, creating jobs and increasing women's rights, rather than relying simply on their identity as women to win seats mandated by the quota. In addition, potential women candidates increasingly made the strategic decision not to compete against one another. This meant women often cooperated when deciding which sub-districts to run in order to avoid splitting the women's vote.
NDI worked with 12 of the 13 winning women as part of its women candidate training program. The program involved more than 100 women considering a run for parliament and focused on campaign strategy development, communications and outreach. Candidates also learned about campaign structure, voter identification, and how to organize election day get-out-the-vote efforts.
The main program was complemented by a series of individual consultations with candidates both before and during the campaign to provide personalized guidance on issues relevant to their specific campaigns. The training program also emphasized how to win votes within Jordan's unique tribal structure — by reaching out to all potential voters rather just the head of a family or tribe — and ways of convincing their own tribes and communities to support their candidacies. For the first time, small tribes took advantage of the quota system by selecting women candidates to represent them, which also had the effect of increasing support for women across Jordan.
A number of challenges remain for the winning women and future women candidates. For one, incumbents still have a hard time winning re-election. Only one of the 13 winners was an incumbent, even though all six of the previously-elected women ran to keep their seats. Press coverage for women candidates was not as positive or prevalent as for male candidates. Also, violence against women candidates escalated — at least six women in the recent campaign were threatened or brutalized, and one candidate had her house burned down. These attacks came primarily from within the women's families.
Despite the many challenges, the parliamentary elections witnessed record levels of success for women candidates. With the new quota system, women will hold the highest number of seats in the history of Jordan's parliament with the majority of the winning women receiving a higher numbers of votes than in previous elections. At a post-election event for newly-elected parliamentarians, the women expressed eagerness to begin carrying out their campaign promises on electoral reform, education, job creation, promotion of women's rights and increased accountability for MPs and government.
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Pictured Above: A voter shows his support for a woman candidate by displaying her posters on his car.
Published December 14, 2010