Loyalists sweep Jordan election after opposition boycott
Agence France Presse

Amman, Jordan — Jordanians voted in large numbers to elect a parliament dominated by pro-government loyalists, with 13 women winning seats, after a boycott by opposition Islamists, official results showed on Wednesday.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF) disputed the official turnout figure, insisting most voters had stayed away, while US poll observers criticised the electoral system which over-represents rural areas regarded as loyalist.

In the new 120-member lower house, 78 MPs are newcomers, Interior Minister Nayef Qadi said, adding that 17 lawmakers are members of political parties.

“Voters have showed their desire for change by electing new faces, which is a positive thing,” Taher Masri, president of Jordan’s appointed Senate, told AFP.

“People chose those who are professional in public work, and they did not vote for those who have focused on their personal interests and not parliamentary work.”

The house, with a strong showing by tribal-linked candidates, will have 13 women MPs. Reem Badran, an economist and daughter of a former premier, won a seat in Amman outside a quota system which reserves 12 seats for women.

“This parliament will be manageable by the government,” said Mohammed Momani, a political science professor at Yarmuk University. “The lower house is likely to react to the government and its initiatives and follow its lead.”

The government on Tuesday announced a 53-percent turnout, similar to the figure recorded in the elections of 1989, when Jordan launched the democratic process.

Prime Minister Samir Rifai said the turnout showed that “the boycott did not have an impact on voting,” but the Islamist camp doubted the high turnout figure and also made charges of vote-buying and fraud.

“In my opinion the actual turnout did not exceed 30 percent,” said IAF leader Hamzah Mansur.

“The new lower house will not be better this time as vote-buying and fraud played a major role in the election.”

Violence marred polling day, with a 25-year-old man shot dead and two others wounded in clashes between rival supporters in the southern city of Karak, police said. Clashes also broke out in other parts of the kingdom.

The government agreed, for the first time, to allow 250 international observers to monitor the election.

The International Republican Institute said in a statement the vote was “credible, an improvement on previous elections and a significant step forward for the Middle East,” but it criticised the electoral law.

“There remains much room for improvement in Jordan’s elections. Jordan’s new election law should strengthen representation for all Jordanians,” it said.

“The over-representation of rural districts is accentuated by the controversial single non-transferable vote system, thus further diluting the representation of urban voters.”

The National Democratic Institute said the elections “showed a clear improvement,” but “among the problems cited … were numerous allegations of vote-buying.”

Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana told reporters that the institute noted the IAF’s boycott, “potentially depriving a significant group of voters of an electoral choice.”

“Further improvements in election administration could encourage more confidence in Jordan’s political process, furthering democratic development and enhancing government accountability,” Pastrana said.

The IAF boycotted the vote in protest at the under-representation of urban areas where it is strong.

Only one of seven Islamist candidates, who registered as independents in defiance of the party line, won a seat.

In November 2009, King Abdullah II dissolved the parliament elected in 2007 and called polls two years early after press allegations about ineffectiveness and corruption among MPs.

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