Sometimes The Weak Survive – Jordan’s New Political Party Map

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 AMMAN 001446


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2018
TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], KDEM [Democratization], JO [Jordan]

REF: A. AMMAN 1139
C. AMMAN 535

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Classified By: Ambassador David Hale
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: In the wake of a new political parties law,
the number of parties in Jordan has been cut in half. The
public financing envisioned by the law has yet to appear, and
the parties are wary of the strings that may be attached to
it. Fourteen parties remain – five liberal reformist
parties, three Communist/Socialist parties, three Arab
Nationalist/Ba’ath parties, and three Islamist parties. End

¶2. (C) As reported Ref A, the number of political parties in
Jordan has been cut in half. The hope of policymakers and
Jordan’s senior leadership was that the law would force out
the irrelevant and unsustainable parties, leaving a
consolidated group which could begin to address national
concerns. As the situation currently stands, however, it
seems that the new framework will look remarkably like the
old one. Despite their newly minted credentials with the
Ministry of Interior, Jordan’s political parties still show
little of the skills, leadership, or ideological weight
necessary to become relevant national political actors.

Show Us the Money

¶3. (C) The new political parties law envisioned a tradeoff
whereby parties would expand their reach in return for public
financing. The parties have now fulfilled their part of the
bargain by completing the registration process, yet the
funding is still not forthcoming. Jordan’s government has
not allocated any money for financing political parties, nor
has it defined the criteria by which the money will be
distributed. Five million dinars (seven million USD) was the
original target for total public financing allocated to
political parties, but there are rumors that this figure may
now be cut to as little as 300,000 dinars (420,000 USD). The
financing will be distributed after the Prime Ministry orders
a regulation to be written outlining the process. Hakim
Al-Khreishat, an Interior Ministry official detailed to the
Ministry of Political Development, said that the amount of
funding is “not clear yet,” and that negotiations were
ongoing within the government. He did not expect movement on
a draft regulation for at least a few months.

¶4. (C) As it stands, there are few criteria that would prove
relevant to the distribution of funds. Of the remaining
fourteen political parties, only one (the Islamic Action
Front) has representation in parliament. Poll numbers for
political parties are either miniscule or non-existent. In
the absence of a definable standard by which the performance
of political parties can be measured, there is little to
suggest that public financing will be equitable, at least in
the short term. Even so, all of this is conjecture until the
money has actually been allocated. Khreishat outlined a
series of proposals that are floating around the Ministry of
Political Development (whose ultimate impact on Jordanian
government policy is likely quite modest) for future
distribution of funds – a flat rate of 10,000 dinars (14,000
USD) per party, monetary rewards for parties which include
more women and youth in their membership, half a dinar (0.35
USD) per vote received in parliamentary elections, or money
only for parties which receive five percent or more of the

¶5. (C) Ex-GID colonel and current MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh
fears that the public financing portion of the law will end
up bolstering the only party that can demonstrate its support
concretely – the Islamic Action Front (IAF). “The IAF has
the most support, so in the end it will get the most money.
I don’t want to effectively support the IAF through
government funding,” he says. Kharabsheh says that the
government’s original intention of creating a viable
alternative to the IAF may have been sound, but the
implementation has proved to be a colossal blunder. He
points out that the IAF has deep roots and real support in
Jordanian society – support that it built up through its long
period of closeness with the Jordanian establishment. By
contrast, other political parties in Jordan are relative
newcomers who do not have the skills or the ideological
underpinnings necessary to win genuine popular support.

¶6. (C) Contacts in Jordan’s political parties seem strangely
indifferent on the funding issue. Most would welcome

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additional support regardless of its source, but are not
counting on the government to make good on its obligations
any time soon. None of the parties we talked to are actively
pressing the government for access to the public financing
promised by the law. As for the amount of support, the
parties seem comfortable with five million dinars between
them – less than one dinar per voter, spread amongst fourteen
political parties. “In the beginning, five million dinars
between us is OK,” says Mohammed Beni Salameh of the newly
created United Jordanian Front Party. He posits that most
political parties in Jordan lack the organizational
infrastructure to utilize the funds at any rate.

¶7. (C) USAID-funded organizations who work with a variety of
parties said that their political party contacts are even
considering the rejection of public financing. The belief is
that money from the government will come with added scrutiny
from the audit bureau of the Ministry of Interior – something
that they are keen to avoid. The new political parties law
already gives the audit bureau the power to dig into party
finances even when public financing is absent, yet the
parties believe that their use of public funds will give the
ministry even more leverage that could be used to influence
their political message.

Strengthening Those That Remain

¶8. (SBU) During an April 29 briefing for the Ambassador,
country representatives of NDI, IRI, and IFES outlined their
strategies for building the capacity of Jordan’s electoral
system and the remaining political parties in partnership
with USAID. As the longer term impact of the new law becomes
evident, direct USG programming and that of its partners is
focusing on building the grassroots organizations and
messages of the parties. Through well-attended workshops
open to all of Jordan’s parties, as well as through
individual consultations, USAID and its partners are building
on the relationships formed in the 2007 parliamentary
elections to build organizations which can take firm root in
Jordanian society. In particular, USG efforts are focusing
on outreach to women and youth – two sectors which the
Jordanian government is also seeking to incentivize into
political party action through funding mechanisms. These
programs are all very well received by Jordan’s political
parties, regardless of their ideological credentials. In
meeting with the remaining parties, the most common (and
persistent) question was when the next NDI and IRI training
sessions would take place.

¶9. (SBU) In addition to direct work with the parties, USAID
programming is also focusing on Jordan’s electoral system.
Through IFES, USG funding is helping to lay the
organizational foundation for the next round of parliamentary
elections in 2011. Through that process, Interior Ministry
officials are being introduced to the benefits of a more
open, transparent political culture, especially where
political parties are concerned. Change in this sphere will
be gradual, but USG-funded programs are paving the way for it
to take place.

And Then There Were Fourteen

¶10. (C) Twelve existing political parties survived the
re-registration process, and are joined by two newly formed
parties. Overall, the balance of political ideologies looks
much like it did before. The parties can be roughly grouped
into liberal reformists/Jordanian nationalists (five),
Communists/Socialists (three), Ba’athists/Arab nationalists
(three), and Islamists (three).

¶11. (C) The current list of parties will probably expand in
the next few months. NDI and IRI have heard rumors that some
of the parties which failed to make the cut are now trying to
reconstitute themselves. The English language Jordan Times
reported on May 1 that four defunct parties (Humat, Arab
Land, Al-Ansar, and Al-Wihda) will soon file a lawsuit
challenging the implementation of the new political parties
law – a move that could in theory lead to their re-emergence.
Abdulhadi Al-Majali’s National Democratic Trend is also
waiting in the wings. Some media initially reported that the
party had officially registered, but these reports later
turned out to be false. It is likely that the party is
waiting to see how the law is implemented before making a
concrete move into the political sphere.

¶12. (C) The following is a run-down of political parties in
Jordan which complied with the new law’s requirements. Seven
of the parties are part of the Higher Coordination Council of
Opposition Parties, an umbrella organization of

AMMAN 00001446 003.2 OF 007

anti-government groups dominated by the IAF. Note: The
council was composed of fourteen tiny parties before the new
law went into effect. End Note.

The Call Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Dua’a

Secretary-General: Mohammed Abu Bakr

Founded: 1993

Ideological Bent: The party leadership describes it as a
“centrist Islamist” party along the lines of Turkey’s Justice
and Development Party. “We don’t have beards,” notes party
chief Abu Bakr, emphasizing that Islam is a moderate religion
which seeks societal and political peace. The party stands
against the ideology and political practices of the Muslim
Brotherhood and the IAF, and has been accused by them of
being “spies” of the U.S. and Israel. Unfortunately, the
party has little to offer in terms of an alternative
ideology. Its leadership admitted as much, saying that they
were waiting for a change to Jordan’s electoral law before
putting forward any candidates – wishful thinking at best.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Poor. The party’s budget is around
50,000 JD (70,000 USD) per year. The party raises money only
from its own membership, and most of that is likely
contributed by the secretary-general (whose gigantic
wristwatch happens to be studded with diamonds). The party
leadership said that it was “too complicated” to raise money
from outside sources. It is eagerly waiting the start of
public financing.

Did You Know?: The party claims that MP Reem Qassem (Zarqa,
elected through the quota for women) is a “secret” member.

The Jordanian National Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Watani Al-Urduni

Secretary-General: Mina Abu Bakr

Founded: 2007

Ideological Bent: Ultra-nationalist royalist. The party
leadership frequently invokes the name (and will) of the King
in their political pronouncements. They are basically a
pro-government, pro-establishment conservative party, and one
that often veers towards ethno-nationalism. The party’s
attitude towards the right of return for Palestinian refugees
is that it will finally give East Bankers “their country”

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Good. The party refused to name a
figure, but it is obvious that the secretary-general is a
very rich woman who can afford to fund a personality party
out of her private bank account. The party is involved in
extensive charitable activities and provides scholarships to
the children of its members. Party members told us that they
would distribute their share of public financing to “the
people” through their charitable wings.

Did You Know?: Mina Abu Bakr, the secretary-general, is the
only female head of a political party in Jordan.

The Democratic People’s Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Hashd

Secretary-General: Ahmad Yusuf ‘Aliya

Founded: 1989 (Officially)

Ideological Bent: Palestinian revolutionary socialist. The
party is one of three members of the “leftist trend” group,
which includes the Communist Party and the Democratic Popular
Unity Party (see below). All three have very similar
ideologies, and are separated mostly by historical
differences over small points of Marxist dogma. Despite its
revolutionary credentials, the party’s leadership is
surprisingly moderate, and talks freely about a desire for

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further political opening and democratization in Jordan –
they call themselves a “revolutionary democratic” party. The
party has a long history that goes back to the founding of
Jordan. It was illegal throughout the Cold War era, and
emerged from its underground status during the political
opening of 1989. Its base of supporters comes primarily from
the Palestinian community, and as a consequence it is heavily
involved in the anti-normalization movement.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Moderate. The party has a solid (but
aging) base of supporters who cling to their membership based
on past ideological struggles. The result is a steady,
dues-paying membership that allows the party some degree of
financial independence. It is not a personality party which
depends on the deep pockets of one benefactor alone.

Did You Know?: The party is associated with former
Palestinian militant and DFLP Nayef Hawatmeh, and has sister
parties in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Message Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Resalah

Secretary-General: Hazem Qashou

Founded: 2003

Ideological Bent: Liberal reformist. The party is composed
primarily of Amman elites, many of whom are active in
Palestinian causes and civil society. Some of the board
members are aging remnants of a former era, but others are
younger and more dynamic. In general, they support a
broadening of political space in Jordan, and have little
faith in the security services.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Moderate. Since its leadership is
mostly composed of Palestinian businessmen, it has more
available funds than most Jordanian political parties. Even
so, Qashou is the primary donor, and it is clear that the
financial strength of the party is directly linked to his
willingness to provide.

Did You Know?: The party allocates a set percentage of the
seats on its board to women.

The Democratic Popular Unity Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Wahda Al-Sha’abiya

Secretary-General: Sa’ed Diab

Founded: 1990

Ideological Bent: Palestinian socialist. The party was
originally the Jordanian branch of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, and largely rests on those laurels
today. It is part of the “leftist trend” group.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Unknown, but seems likely to have a
solid base of older supporters within Jordan’s Palestinian

The Islamic Center Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Wasat Al-Islami

Secretary-General: Marwan Al-Fa’ouri

Founded: 2001

Ideological Bent: Pro-Government Islamist. The party split
from the Muslim Brotherhood and the IAF in 2001, and has
generally pursued a moderate, pro-state approach (Ref B).
Unlike the Islamic Action Front, the party accepts
normalization and relations with Israel. Its membership is
primarily composed of East Bankers. The party claims (as
many others in Jordan spuriously do) that it has “secret”
adherents in parliament.

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Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Unknown

The National Movement for Direct Democracy

Arabic Name: Al-Haraka Al-Qawmiya Lil Dimoqratiya Al-Mubashara

Secretary-General: Mohammed Al-Qaq

Founded: 1997

Ideological Bent: Pan-Arab Nationalist with a Palestinian
twist. It is mostly a personality party based around the
Secretary-General, and has no clear agenda beyond a few
slogans about Arab unity. The Secretary-General talks about
the party more in terms of what it isn’t – not Islamist, not
Communist, not particularly Jordanian nationalist. His desk
features a Hizbollah plaque, a picture of Qadhafi, and a
Saddam Hussein sticker – an indication of the mishmash of
ideas that flow through conversations with him. The party
did not field any candidates in the November 2007
parliamentary elections.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Poor. The Secretary-General describes
the party as operating at “survival level” only. It can only
afford one branch office (in Zarqa). The transition to 500
members was a financial stretch for the party – one that it
will be difficult to maintain.

Did You Know?: The Secretary-General spent fifteen years in
an Israeli jail (1968-1983), and is currently barred from
entering Israel.

The Islamic Action Front

Arabic Name: Jebhat Al-‘Amal Al-Islami

Secretary-General: Zaki Bani-Irshaid

Founded: 1992

Ideological Bent: Islamist. The IAF is the political wing of
the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. The party has frequently
demonstrated political support for Hamas. It also beats a
steady drum of anti-government rhetoric, often under the
banner of democratization. Since it has almost no chance of
winning political power, the IAF is comfortable with spouting
unfounded criticism and rarely proposes alternative policies.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Good. The party has deep pockets as a
result of extensive support in Jordan and links to donors
from the Muslim Brotherhood. The IAF may also be drawing
funds from professional associations it controls.

The National Constitution Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Watani Al-Dustouri

Secretary-General: Ahmed Al-Shunaq

Founded: 1997

Ideological Bent: Pro-Government Tribal Conservative. The
party was originally founded by Abdulhadi Al-Majali
(currently speaker of parliament) as a merger of nine small
pro-government parties. The effort foundered due to lack of
government support and a coherent strategy. Majali has since
left the party, leaving it a shell whose purpose is now

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Unknown, but likely poor given declining
interest in keeping it afloat.

Did You Know?: Rumor had it that the party was set to
dissolve itself, but it has unexpectedly survived due to help
from Jordan’s security infrastructure. The head of the party

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told the National Democratic Institute that he was “planning
on taking a vacation” when he was informed that the party was
going to cross the threshold regardless of his assumptions or

The Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Arabi Al-Ba’athi Al-Ishtiraki

Secretary-General: Fuad Dabbour

Founded: 1993

Ideological Bent: Syrian Ba’athist. The party’s small base
of supporters speaks to its miniscule number of adherents and
its firm backward-looking ideology. Despite its size, the
party has a decent footprint in the Jordanian media.
Dabbour’s fiery statements on foreign policy (usually on the
normalization issue) are frequently quoted in the press.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Unknown

The Jordanian Communist Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Shuyui Al-Urduni

Secretary-General: Munir Hamarneh

Founded: 1948

Ideological Bent: Pan-Arab Palestinian Communist. The party
is the result of a recent merger between two factions (the
Jordanian Communist Party and the Jordanian Communist
Workers’ Party) which had existed side by side for decades
(Ref A). The party is vocal in its support of
anti-normalization efforts, and frequently issues written
attacks against American policy.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Unknown. The party rails against
“foreign funding” of political parties, but has not indicated
its willingness to accept financial assistance from the
Jordanian government.

Did You Know?: The party was illegal until 1993.

The Ba’ath Arab Progressive Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Ba’ath Al-Arabi Al-Taqaddumi

Secretary-General: Tayseer Salameh Al-Hamsi

Founded: 1993

Ideological Bent: Iraqi Ba’athist. Like its Syrian-oriented
counterpart, the party clings to a remnant of old political
fashions which few find relevant for today’s problems. By
all accounts, the party’s support base is miniscule. Many
are wondering how it crossed the threshold.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: Yes

Financial Situation: Unknown, but likely poor.

The Jordanian United Front

Arabic Name: Jabhet Al-Urduni Al-Mutahida

Secretary-General: Amjad Al-Majali

Founded: 2008

Ideological Bent: Still not exactly clear, but generally
liberal reformist with a hint of East Banker nativism. The
party is probably a personal advancement vehicle for Amjad
Majali (a relative but political enemy of parliament speaker
Abdulhadi Al-Majali), although it is too early to say whether
it has broader ambitions or not. The head of the party’s
political committee told us that it is looking for
“liberalism with Jordanian characteristics” without defining
any of those terms. The party claims 3,000 members, but

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clearly has no near-term strategy or idea on how to create an
effective grassroots organization.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Too early to say, although the
prominence of its leadership and the number of initial
members likely indicates a solid financial base.

Did You Know?: The party is the first in Jordan to adopt term
limits for its secretary-general, though it remains to be
seen whether Majali will actually follow through on that.

The Life Party

Arabic Name: Hizb Al-Hayah

Secretary General: Thaher Ahmad ‘Amrou

Founded: 2008

Ideological Bent: Neoliberal reformist with a dash of tribal
populism. The party supports an intriguing mix of
pro-business measures and internal political reform. The
party’s strategy is to establish trust and name recognition
through services, and then move on to larger political goals.
The party wants to bring Jordan towards a more economically
sustainable future in which it is less dependent on foreign
aid and is not burdened by debt.

Member of the Higher Coordinating Council of Opposition
Parties: No

Financial Situation: Too early to say, but starting out well.
The secretary-general is a wealthy businessman, but it is
clear that he wants to expand the party’s financial base. He
said that the party intends to establish businesses and other
fundraising mechanisms which will provide long-term financial
security for the party.