Fri, Jan 25, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Jordanian tribal leaders, loyalists to sweep election

REFORM OR RUSE?The country’s king says the parliamentary election is part of his democratization plan, but opposition groups that shunned it said the poll was rigged

AFP, AMMAN

Tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen looked set to sweep a parliamentary election in Jordan that was shunned by Islamists, initial results released yesterday showed.

The Jordanian Independent Election Commission was to hold a news conference later in the day, but said it was unclear if final results would be announced.

Wednesday’s election — touted by Jordanian King Abdullah II as a focal point of his reforms process — was boycotted by Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, who said the monarch’s measures fell short of true democratic change.

The commission gave a final turnout figure of 56.6 percent of the registered electorate of 2.3 million, but the Brotherhood said turnout was way below that figure due to fraud and vote-buying.

Initial results released by the commission showed that tribal leaders, an assortment of pro-regime figures and independent businessmen were heading the field.

The figures also showed that independent candidate Maryam Luzi, an educationist, had won a seat outside of the quota system, which reserves 15 seats for women.

Another winner, was Khalil Atieh, a long-time regime ally who enjoys good reputation. Standing in the capital Amman, he bagged the highest number of votes — 19,280 — in his constituency, the commission said.

At least three candidates who have been accused by the authorities of vote-buying appeared to have won. Their cases are still pending in the courts and if found guilty, they face several years in jail.

“The turnout does not make any sense. They could have done a better job to make people believe [it was genuine],” Brotherhood deputy leader Zaki Bani Rshied told reporters. “We have closely monitored the electoral process. Vote-buying and fake voter cards were very clear. We will prove that our boycott was the right decision.”

The commission insisted its figures were “accurate.”

“The voting was slow in the morning, but in the afternoon, the turnout increased. Our figures are accurate and realistic,” commission head Abul Ila Khatib said. “We have nothing to hide. The election is being observed by Jordanians themselves and international monitors. We are not worried about the figures. We care about the integrity of the election.”

King Abdullah II wants the election to pave the way for a parliamentary system of government.

He has said he plans for the first time to consult lawmakers before naming a prime minister, insisting that strong political parties are needed to support such a system.

However, the Islamists and the National Reform Front of former Jordanian prime minister and chief of intelligence Ahmad Obeidat — which also boycotted the poll — say the monarchy has no real will to reform and insist that the king should not name prime ministers.

A total of 1,425 candidates, including about 140 former legislators and 191 women, contested the 150 seats in the parliament’s lower house.

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