AMMAN — Young interns at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said their engagement in the commission’s work has “matured” their political awareness and encouraged their participation.
Speaking to The Jordan Times on Wednesday, a group of young Jordanians enrolled in the IEC’s internship programme highlighted their work at the commission as a gateway for understanding the “transparency and professionalism” behind the electoral process.
They added that their experiences have helped them better understand their generation’s role in the decision-making process and the need for young citizens to cast their votes in elections in order to realise hopes for change.
Hind Azzeh said she benefited on both the personal and professional levels, including through networking, learning skills of persuasion and extensively studying the electoral process.
Through her field work in educating people about election procedures at public places for the previous parliamentary elections, Azzeh said she learned how to simplify her explanations of regulations which are often perceived to be complicated, allowing the public to better understand them and become more willing to participate.
Azzeh, who has nine years of experience in administrative work, also took part in training fresh interns, seeing firsthand the development of their interests and passion for political participation, particularly among young Jordanians in the governorates.
For his part, 23-year-old Maher Dodeen, who also interned in the previous elections, said that taking part in preparations for the local and municipal elections has enabled him to learn more about the process and to be able to easily explain it to his peers.
Addressing criticisms of the elections and calls for boycott, Dodeen said that the IEC’s role is to carry out the election process, while adding that the Elections Law has had the approval of the two Houses of Parliament and has been approved by a majority of the Kingdom’s parliamentary representatives.
He added that rotating through various departments at the IEC, including the media, administrative and information technology departments, gave him a wider insight into the workings of the commission.
Shahd Kanaan, an international relations graduate who has enrolled in previous internship programmes with the IEC, said she now knows that elections are not merely focused on the election day itself, but that the processes before and after the voting day are equally important.
Her colleague Nadia Nahel agreed, adding that through the commission’s awareness-raising workshops across the Kingdom, she realised that the political empowerment of women is not a farfetched dream, stressing that she met many women who are fully capable and are already challenging and changing negative perceptions in their communities.
Maha Zyoud, who holds a diploma in English Literature, highlighted youth engagement as a central tool of change, adding that political work and activism is not exclusive to those who studied it, but can include those who have developed a passion for politics.
For Ahmad Khalayleh, his experience has had additional benefits, as the Zarqa resident is now aware that his vote must be merit-based and must not be subject to any form of social pressure.
The computer information systems graduate said he is eager to take part in the door-to-door campaign that the IEC will start across the country after Eid Al Fitr holiday.
The campaign will aim to educate eligible voters on how they can vote in in their particular constituency, based on which seats are available in specific wards.
The group agreed that their interaction with commissioners and experts helped them to deepen their experiences of the commission’s work, functioning as a bridge between their higher education experience and their performance in the job market.
The internship programme currently includes 30 participants from Amman, Irbid, Mafraq, Madaba and Zarqa governorates, as well as two American nationals, according to Aous Qutaishat, the IEC chairman’s adviser, adding that the number of interns will increase to reach 45 in the coming days.
In addition to interns, the IEC also has a programme that trains and engages volunteers to help in facilitating the electoral process, he said, adding that their number will reach around 2,000.
“We seek to increase the number of volunteers to 15,000 on election day,” he said, noting that volunteers are the commission’s “ambassadors in the field” and that they undergo comprehensive training.
In September’s parliamentary elections, citizens under 35 years of age comprised 37.65 per cent of the nearly 1.4 million Jordanians who voted.