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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Nov 11, 2010

Jordan Parliament Election

The Jordanian election (Nov. 9, 2010) revived old memories of my senior year in Salt High School during the 1950s. At the time, most of my peers were extremely nationalistic and eager to witness a free election for the Jordanian parliament. Some of us volunteered to help people who came to the voting place. During that time, other people who were supporting their candidates were paying one to two Jordanian pounds, which was equivalent at the time to $3 - $5, for each vote. As an idealist, I tried to stop it, but was arrested by the attending officer for disturbing the peace. A few hours later I was released. That incident never disappeared form my memory. During the past few days (Nov. 5 – 9, 2010) aljazeera.net did an interview with some people in Jordan in connection with the election. The interesting part of that interview was the fact that some political candidates hired brokers to recruit voters in their district and pay them at the rate of 30 – 50 Jordanian pounds per vote ($40 - $50). I was stunned and amazed at the same time that what I experienced sixty years ago in Salt-Jordan regarding paying voters to vote for a specific candidate took place during the present at the last election. A substantial number of people are poverty-stricken and may be in need of financial help. Some voters may think that it makes no difference who wins the election because the end result will be the same. At the same time, I have started thinking about the financial resources spent on the election in the U.S. For example, the midterm election for the American Congress came to an end (11/2/2010) and the mass media (both print and electronic) expressed the huge amount of money that was spent on publicity for and by the candidates who ran. It has been estimated that the recent election cost was $4.2 billion, which is double the amount of money spent in previous midterm elections. It was also reported that one candidate for governor of California spent $143 million of her own money during the campaign period. Each vote ended up costing $47.

The tragedy of all such campaign tactics used during an election, irrespective of where it takes place (U.S., Jordan or Timbuktu), added to the corruption of the democratic institutions. At least when it happens in non-Democratic Jordan it is understandable. However, when it happens in the U.S., this is viewed as part of free speech permitted under the first amendment. Personally, people have the right to express themselves, but when financial resources in many ways are used to mislead the public or smear a candidate with lies, then this type of expression is an immoral act. But it takes place under the banner of democracy.

In respect to the Jordanian parliament election, it was reported that nearly half of the eligible voters exercised their rights. The press reported on the widespread buying of votes in many parts of the kingdom, which will further complicate the functions and the credibility of the newly elected politicians.

Parliament is under the authority of the king and that higher authority could dissolve it at any time the king sees appropriate. Furthermore, the government can always change the law without the approval of parliament. This is one of the reasons that some political parties boycotted the recent election. Since the king assumed the throne, he dissolved the parliament twice before it finished its 4 year run. The impact of this political conduct on voters is negative. Regardless, Jordan is no different from the rest of the Arab countries. Governments and rulers exercise their political rituals under the slogan of democracy. Furthermore, they think they are wise and knowledgeable to form policy and make decisions on behalf of their population!

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