By Fares Braizat, Feb 20,2022

When 70 per cent of eligible voters express various degrees of intention not to vote in the upcoming municipal elections, we have to ask ourselves why. 

In two nationally representative surveys carried out by NAMA over the past few months, nearly a third of the eligible voters said they “will vote for sure” in the upcoming municipal elections. There are many underlying reasons for such an outcome, and they range from diffuse to specific. 

First, this “majority withdrawal” from public life is consistent with the trend that has been emerging over the past few years and has been confirmed in various surveys carried out by the Center for Strategic Studies and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. This withdrawal has been intensifying and is positively correlated with: a) rising unemployment, b) increasingly weaker confidence in the government’s ability to address economic problems, and c) weak trust in representative institutions: House of Representatives, municipal councils, governorate councils (after decentralization), and political parties. 

This withdrawal is also positively correlated with growing dissatisfaction with government’s performance in education, health, transportation, fighting corruption, and the environment, among others. 

Second, there is weak conviction among eligible voters that participation will effect change. Some 58 per cent report that the country is heading in the “wrong direction”, yet there is very little association between this position and voting in order to change it.

The trend looks like this: the more an eligible voter believes that the country is heading in the wrong direction, the less likely that voter is to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. Logic would suggest that a voter would express a strong commitment to vote to change a reality s/he does not like. Empirical evidence, however, demonstrates that 58 per cent of those believing that the country is heading “totally in the wrong direction” said they “will not vote for sure”. This compares to 26 percent who believe the country is heading in “the right direction to a great extent” and said they “will not vote for sure”. 

In this context, we can detect the “confirmative voter” who believes the country is heading in “the right direction to a great extent” and “will vote for sure”. 

The conclusion is that the majority of eligible voters does not see voting as an effective way to effect change. 

Third, there are issues with the perceived integrity and efficacy of the municipal electoral process. Eligible voters who said they “will not vote for sure” and those who said they are “unlikely to vote” were asked why. Half of them explained their positions by reporting issues of weak effectiveness and distrust in the process. Nearly a quarter reported “no worthy candidate”.

By comparison, when the eligible voters who did not participate in the in 2017 municipal elections were asked why, 35 per cent of them reported issues of distrust in the process and its effectiveness, and a quarter reported that there was no worthy candidate. 

Therefore, there is a lot of work to be done to change this perceived image. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has done a tremendous job over the past few years to change that perception, but a lot more work remains to be done to regain public trust in the electoral process in general, whether municipal or parliamentary; this task does not rest exclusively with the IEC, rather it is a national problem that requires a national solution. 

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on February 20, 2022. For the original article source, click here

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