Event Reports

Bloggers for elections’ observation

Event: Regional WorkshopDate/Place: July 3rd and 4th 2010, KAS Amman Office, Jordan Concept: Dr. Amira Mustafa, Dr. Martin BeckOrganisation: KAS Amman Office, Arab World Center for Democratic Development (UNIHRD)

1. Program Overview

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Opening Session: Welcome Speech

PD Dr. Martin Beck

Resident Representative

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Dr. Amira Mustafa

Executive Director

Arab World Center for Democratic Development (UNIHRD)

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Session I

The Importance and Significance of the Upcoming Elections

Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh

Judge, North Amman Court

Different Electoral Systems and the Jordanian Regime

Rebhi Etwi

Lawyer and Chairman of Mesaq Association for Human Rights

Political Participation of Women and Minorities

Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh

Richter, North Amman Court

Youth Participation in the Jordanian Elections

Ayoub Mohammed Nammour and Ala’a Burhan Arafat

Al-Hayat Center

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Session II

Summary of the previous workshop day

Ala’a Mohammed

Project Coordinator, Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship

Question and Answer Session

Rouman Hadad

Writer and Journalist

Online Skills of Surveillance

Rouman Hadad

Writer and Journalist

Designing Blogs for Covering the Elections

Sakher Khasawneh

Attorney at law

How to Design a Blog and Making it Popular

Ala’a Mohammed

Project Coordinator, Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship

Presentation of the Implementation Plan

Dr. Amira Mustafa

Executive Director, UNIHRD

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2. Objective

The Jordanian population is a very young

one: 50% of Jordanians are below the age

of 20. Many young people are very active in

the World Wide Web: Besides social networks

like Facebook and Twitter, blogging

rapidly gained in popularity. However, the

contents which are delivered by blogs differ

a lot. Besides personal blogs, which are the

most common ones, politically motivated

blogs have become increasingly popular.

The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung sees a high

political potential in this new form of political

participation. For this reason KAS Amman

in cooperation with the Arab World

Center for Democratic Development and

Human Rights (UNIHRD) decided to organize

a workshop entitled “Bloggers for elections’

observation” on July 3rd and 4th, 2010.

This topic was chosen because of current

political developments in Jordan: On November

2009, His Majesty King Abdullah II

dissolved the Jordanian parliament. The

transitional government under Prime Minister

Samir Rifai was appointed to create a

new electoral law for the upcoming elections

on November 9th, 2010. The new electoral

law was announced on June 8th, 2010 and

included some modifications of the former

electoral law. Thus, the goal of the conference

was to inform young Jordanian bloggers

about the new electoral law and the

upcoming elections to increase their political

awareness. Therefore, the workshop was

organized to shed light on different aspects

of the electoral law and process. Last but

not least, the workshop was supposed to

teach bloggers how to exercise their democratic

rights of political participation. In addition

to that, the participants learnt how to

design a blog about the upcoming elections

and make it popular. The 35 participants of

different parts of Jordan were chosen because

of their outstanding skills, experiences

and commitment. They were trained

by distinguished experts from different

fields.

3. Details

Dr. Martin Beck, the Resident Representative

of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in

Amman, opened the workshop. In his welcoming

speech he outlined one of the general

goals of the KAS, namely to encourage

the political education of youth and to support

democratic values. The political education

of youth should lead to an increase of

their political awareness, so that they participate

more actively in political processes.

These measures should encourage young

people to participate in politics. Moreover,

Dr. Martin Beck then summarized the main points of the new electoral law. He finished

his welcoming speech by expressing

his pleasure to welcome the experts and

participants.

Dr. Amira Mustafa, Chief Executive Officer

of the Arab World Center for Democratic

Development and Human Rights, began her

welcoming speech with an introduction of

her organization. Then she underlined the

important role of the media for democratic

processes. Since bloggers are becoming a

bigger part of the media, it is very important

to train these bloggers in their political

awareness.

After the welcoming speeches, Dr. Amjad

Al-Shraideh, judge at the North Amman

Court, began the first session of the workshop.

He talked about the importance and

the significance of the upcoming elections.

He began his lecture by underlining the intentions

of His Majesty King Abdullah II to

conduct transparent and fair elections that

reflect the will of the voters. In addition to

that, King Abdullah stressed that the elections

should be held in a climate which is

dominated by decentralization and which

should enhance the political participation of

all members of the Jordanian society, especially

the participation of women in the parliament.

Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh analyzed

the new electoral law and stressed that

there are obviously huge differences between

the current electoral law and the previous

one. In his point of view, the most

obvious difference is the creation of virtual

districts. While the 2001 temporary electoral

law created 45 districts, the current

electoral law created additionally 108 subareas.

Another crucial difference is the

women quota, which was doubled from six

seats to twelve seats. Moreover the new law

focuses on the abolishment of corruption, so

that intensive penalties will be imposed on

those who committed these crimes. He also

mentioned that the new electoral law is only

a temporal law which has to be confirmed

by the upcoming parliament.

After the lecture, Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh

discussed the issue of political awareness of

the young generation with the participants.

In his point of view, there is a lack of political

awareness in the Jordanian society in

general, but especially among young people.

Therefore, he underlined the importance

of promoting this awareness through

conferences like this. Besides this it is also

important to inform particularly students

about the candidates, so that they vote for

a candidate who is representing them properly.

The second speaker was the lawyer Rebhi

Etwi, who is the manager of the Mithaq

Center for Development and Human Rights.

He talked about the different electoral systems

and the Jordanian regime. He began

with underlining the crucial meaning of the

voting right and of a parliament which is

representing the peoples’ views. In this context,

he quoted the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights, which states in Article 21,

that everyone has the right to take part in

the government of his country, directly or

through freely chosen representatives.

Moreover everyone has the right of equal

access to public service in his or her country.

Additionally, the will of the people shall

be the basis of the authority of government,

expressed in periodic democratic elections.

Subsequently, Mr. Rebhi Etwi also talked

about criteria to assess the electoral system.

He named voters’ representation, the

stability of the government and its efficiency,

the accountability of the government,

the accountability of the elected individuals,

encouraging political parties and

empowering the opposition and the legislative

monitoring.

Furthermore, he introduced a categorization

of electoral systems which consists of three

types: the majority system, the proportional representation system and the mixed system.

91 countries in the world adopted the

majority system for legislative elections, 72

countries the proportional representation

and 30 countries adopted the mixed system.

Referring to the situation in Jordan, Mr.

Rebhi Etwi explained the general electoral

system, which was introduced by royal decree

for the 1993 general elections by His

Majesty King Hussein. He decided to maintain

the multi-member districts, but

changed the law to one where voters could

only choose one candidate in their district.

Thus Jordan adopted the Single Non-

Transferable Vote (SNTV). In the Jordanian

context SNTV is called "one man, one vote",

even though this terminology in other countries

is primarily used to indicate the fundamental

principle of equality between voters

rather than a particular electoral system.

After that, Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh talked

about the political participation of women

and minorities. He elaborated on the next

elections, which will be held under the new

temporary electoral law, while focusing on

the importance of political parties.

He then focused on the participation of various

parties in the upcoming elections. He

stated that the representation of different

groups (e.g. women, Circassians etc.) has

improved since the introduction of the “one

man-one vote” system. Jordanian Women

were granted the right to vote in 1974.

Since parliament was suspended in the

1970s and 1980s, the first parliamentary

elections in which women voted were held

in 1989. During the second legislative elections

in 1993, two women ran for parliament,

and one, Tujan al-Faysal, won a seat.

The government first introduced a six-seat

women’s quota ahead of the 2003 parliamentary

elections. Four years later, seven

women were elected to the Lower House:

Six via the quota system, and the seventh

through direct elections. Before the quota

was introduced, only two women had ever

served in the Lower House: Tujan al-Faysal

and Nuha Maaytah, who gained a seat

through parliamentary by-elections in 2001.

The first session ended with the lecture of

two young bloggers, who talked about their

experiences. The presentation of Mr. Ayoub

Nammour and Ms. Ala’a Arafat, who

work with the Al-Hayat Center, was about

“Youth Participation in the Jordanian election”.

They were underlining the fact that

the youth represent the majority in Jordan

and are the hope and promise to a new political

age of free elections and civil rights.

They made very clear that the empowerment

of democracy in any community

should be treated as a lifestyle and not just

a concept of thought. The biggest impact of

democracy and its exercise is to assure

freedoms along with spreading awareness

of everyone’s rights and responsibilities.

They showed the participants how to participate

and underlined the importance of

observing elections, encouraging others to

participate in elections, joining a candidate’s

campaign and supporting him and to elect a

candidate.

The second day of the workshop on July 4th,

2010 focused on different ways of blogging.

It started with Ms. Ala’a Mohammed, who

works at the Arab World Center for Democratic

Development and Human Rights

(UNIHRD). She summarized the previous

workshop day and emphasized the differences

between the new and old electoral

law. In addition to that, she underlined the

importance to include the youth into political

processes, so that young people can

contribute their ideas and thoughts to the

political development in Jordan. She concluded

that the political awareness of bloggers

should be improved to create more

fruitful and useful blogs.

Subsequently Mr. Rouman Hadad discussed

questions and answers with the participants.

The most central questions were

the following: Why do bloggers observe?

Who will they observe? How can they be

neutral in observing? What are the basic

principles for election observation? Mr.

Rouman Hadad discussed these questions

with the participants in an interactive way,

so that the young bloggers could contribute

with their knowledge, experiences and

ideas. He began his session by asking about

the degree of activity of the participants.

This revealed the fact that many of the participants

are very active on their blogs, but

also that some of them have a blog without

working on it that often. He encouraged the

rather passive minority to make use of their

right to express their opinion through their

blogs. In his point of view, it is very important

to ensure the quality of their blogs, by

being well informed about the electoral law,

for instance. He also stressed the need of

political bloggers to know the proper terminology

so that they reach their audience.

After that, he began to discuss the questions

mentioned above. Regarding their

points of view, bloggers observe mainly because

blogs give the opportunity to express

opinions without being restricted. Mr.

Rouman Hadad told the participants that

mainly government officials, citizens and

candidates will be observed. The possibilities

to be neutral while observing was the

issue of the next question, which were discussed

by the participants. According to the

trainer and the participants the neutrality of

the blogs can be guaranteed when the bloggers

inform themselves as well as possible.

He finished by discussing the basic principles

for election observation, namely training,

expertise, neutrality, speed and accuracy.

Mr. Rouman Hadad ended his speech with

lecturing about “Online Skills of Surveillance:

Network Security and Tactical Skills”.

He began with network security by naming

different measures for obtaining network

security, namely determining the geographical

scope of the blogger who is observing,

the networking with other bloggers,

collecting information, direct observation,

gathering different statements and receiving

complaints. Hence, Mr. Rouman Hadad

talked about online skills of surveillance,

namely tactical skills. In his point of view,

blogging is an important tactical skill, which

comprises not only writing, but also polls,

pictures and multimedia.

Regarding network security Mr. Rouman

Hadad’s said that network security can not

be 100% safe. Nevertheless, we should always

aspire to reach this 100% by implementing

some measures that will help making

the network as secure as possible. One

of these measures is to protect the computers

adequately from hackers and from

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), which

is when someone attempts to make a

computer resource unavailable to its

intended users. Thereafter, Mr. Rouman

Hadad pointed out some measures to

reduce the risk of default setting: SSID or

Service Set Identifier, MAC or Address Media

Access Control Address, WEP or Wired

Equivalent Privacy.

Dr. Sakher Khasawneh lectured on “Designing

Blogs for Covering the Elections”. He

explained that blogging is a means to express

opinions and ideas. The inputs of

blogs vary according to the interests of the

bloggers and according to the means of expression:

writing, graphics, images or video

clips. Regarding the blogging about elections

Dr. Sakher Khasawneh stressed the

needs for a successful blogging: Gathering

all information material and analysis, interviews,

debates, dialogues and investigations,

participating in conferences and

meetings. He reminded the participants that

reporting on the elections is free of charge

within the regular programs or special institutions or private or public audio-visual media.

This makes it very easy to disseminate

information about the elections via media,

for instance printed newspaper and magazines.

Dr. Sakher Khasawneh underlined

also the need of bloggers to work very precisely

to ensure the accuracy of their information

and news before they get published.

For this purpose, the blogger has to take

into account all information and news in an

objective way, without prejudice. In this

context, he mentioned that there are some

aspects to consider regarding the freedom

of opinion and expression. This means

mainly the respect of the rights and reputation

of others.

Ms. Ala’a Mohammed focused in her presentation

on how to design a blog and make

it popular by using many different methods.

The most important answer to her question

was accuracy, which means that bloggers

should write about an event immediately

after it happened. Another rule is the use of

a proper language, depending on the target

audience.

Dr. Amira Mustafa presented an implementation

plan, after the participants had

learned a lot about blogging and the Jordanian

elections and election law. She suggested

creating now a blog on which every

participant of the conference should contribute.

On this blog they should implement

all information and methods learned in the

two-day workshop so that other young people

in Jordan can benefit from it as well.

4. Conclusion

The two day workshop covered a very current

issue which is very important to the

future of Jordan’s democracy. It was a

unique chance for young people in Jordan to

be taught by high-ranking and renowned

trainers who are experts in their respective

field and offered the young participants different

perspectives. At the same time, the

experts had the chance to exchange ideas

and discuss issues with youths who are very

active and highly experienced.

The workshop connected two issues, namely

blogging and the upcoming elections, to

create a fruitful discussion with a high potential

to contribute to the democratization

processes in Jordan.

The feedback of the workshop was positive.

The participants and trainers expressed

their interest for follow-up events. Besides,

the plan to work on a shared blog about the

upcoming parliamentary elections in November

2010 will ensure sustainability of

the event. There might be another meeting

held right before the elections to present

the achieved results and to discuss how to

proceed.