Jordanians vote in polls boycotted by Islamic opposition

Jordanians turned out in force today for an election likely to produce MPs with tribal links and loyal to a government that faces little challenge after opposition Islamists pulled out.

Amman: Jordanians turned out in force
today for an election likely to produce MPs with tribal links
and loyal to a government that faces little challenge after
opposition Islamists pulled out.

Polls closed at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), and senior
election official Saad Shehab announced that turnout had
reached 53 per cent.

The vote came as Jordan faces an economic crisis with
a record budget deficit of USD two billion (1.44 billion
euros) and a foreign debt of USD 11 billion, or nearly 60 per
cent of GDP.

"The election is key to our democratic march and
reforms... in order to serve citizens in line with a
partnership between the government and parliament," King
Abdullah II said.

Jordan has been without a parliament since last
November when the king dissolved the legislature and called an
election two years early after press allegations about
ineffectiveness and corruption among MPs.

Around 2.5 million Jordanians were eligible to vote
today at 1,492 polling stations, with 763 candidates vying for
a four-year term in the 120-seat lower house of parliament.

Twelve seats were reserved for women.

In election-related violence, a 25-year-old man was
shot dead and two others wounded in clashes between rival
supporters in the southern city of Karak, police said.

And around 30 people were arrested on their way to a
polling station "for carrying knives and axes" in Madaba, near
Amman, police spokesman Mohammed Khatib said.
In eastern Amman, a drunken driver was arrested after
he rammed through a polling centre, injuring two people,
Khatib said.

Pro-government candidates and representatives of
tribes are likely to sweep the polls in the country of 6.3
million people, raising fears that an opposition-free
parliament will affect reform, analysts said.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF) party boycotted the
election in protest at constituency boundaries determined
under a new electoral law adopted in May.

It says these over-represent rural areas considered
loyal to the government at the expense of urban areas regarded
as Islamist strongholds and says the electoral law has
returned Jordan to a previous controversial voting system.

"They (Islamists) chose not to practice their
constitutional right and participate. They have the right to
do so," Prime Minister Samir Rifai said.

PTI

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