General Division of Powers
  • Jordan is divided into three main levels. The central level consists of the King as the head of State and his Cabinet of Ministries led by the appointed prime minister. The King designates the seats in the Senate and can dissolve both chambers of the National Assembly and dismiss members at will. He also has the power to create and abolish all government institutions and extensive veto rights. The National Assembly is divided into an appointed Senate and an elected House of Representatives. The regional level is composed of 12 governorates. The governors act as an extension of the central government and are accountable to it. Governorates are further subdivided into districts (Liwa’) and Sub-districts (Qda’). The local level consists of 93 municipalities and the Greater Amman municipality which provide local services. Although since 2007 mayors and council are elected, the municipalities’ de-facto power is limited vis-à-vis central government and its regional managers. Since 1994, part of Amman’s local government, including the Mayor, is appointed by the House of Representatives.
  • The Jordanian parliament is currently undergoing reform. Jordan’s constitution established a bicameral National Assembly (Majlis al-Ummah), with a Senate (Majlis al-Aʿyan) as its upper chamber, and a House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwwāb) as a lower chamber. The aʿyan (“notables”) of the Senate are appointed by the King to serve a four years term. Elections for the nuwwāb (“deputies”) of the House of Representatives are scheduled at intervals of at least every four years but have frequently been suspended. A small number of seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for women and minorities such as Christians and Circassians. The ninth parliament, elected in 1965, was prorogued several times before being replaced in 1978 by the National Consultative Council, an appointed body with reduced power that debates Government programs and activities. The parliament was reconvened in a special session called in January 1984. Since then, the parliament has been periodically suspended: from 1988, when Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank, until 1989 and from August until November 1993, when the country held its first multiparty elections since 1956. In 2001 the King dissolved the House of Representatives to reformulate the electoral system; new deputies were elected in 2003. In December 2005, the King appointed a new Prime Minister, Marouf Bakhit. Following the contested election of 2007, the King abruptly dissolved the Parliament in November 2009, saying that it had failed to meet the will of the people. At the same time, former Jordanian Prime Minister Nader al Dabi also resigned, and was later replaced by Samir al-Rifai. Although Jordanian law states that a new election date has to be announced within four months of the dissolution of parliament, the King postponed the election until November 2010. In 2012, the King dissolved the House of Representatives midway through the parliament’s term. The last elections were held in January 2013.
  • Outlook for potential changes: the subject of political reform has been widely discussed in Jordan in recent decades and a reform movement has been well under way. Although it has not requested regime change, it seeks profound constitutional reforms that would strip the King of Jordan of his executive and legislative authority. Above all, the movement seeks to remove the King's power to dissolve the National Assembly, establish parliamentary control over the formation of the government, and introduce direct election to the Senate. A number of amendments to the constitution were already adopted in 2011 through the legislative channels. However, in its 2011 version, the Constitution still grants the King the right to dissolve the House of Representatives and to dissolve the Senate or relieve any of its members of his membership (Article 34). As mentioned above, the King consults the National Assembly before appointing the Prime Minister. However, this new arrangement has not yet been laid down in the constitution. As regards the composition of the Senate, Article 36 of the Constitution still mentions that its members are appointed by the King.
  • In June 2012, the National Assembly passed two amendments to the Election Law. It adopted a mixed electoral system in which 27 seats are allocated by a closed national list and 108 are reserved for the governorates. It also increased women’s quota from 12 to 15 seats and increased the overall size of the House of Representatives to 150. Furthermore, the King relinquished his right to directly appoint a Prime Minister without consultation and in 2013 the National Assembly voted for Abdullah Nsour to assemble his Cabinet. However, opposition, mainly represented by the Islamic Action Front (IAF), still objects to current electoral rules and major parties abstained from general elections.