Jordan to elect new Parliament tomorrow

Polls overshadowed by Islamist boycott and bad economic times

22 January, 16:09

(By Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) - AMMAN, JANUARY 22 - Jordanians are set to elect a new parliament on Wednesday, in elections tainted by difficult economic conditions and growing apathy.

No major political parties are running in the first polls held since the Arab spring uprooted regimes in North Africa and forced king Abdullah to amend the constitution, set up elections independent commission, constitutional court and amend the elections law. For the first time, the pro-west monarch will consult with the parliament before forming governments.

''Elections are the right step forward in reforms in Jordan,'' government spokesman Sameeh Mayta told ANSA.

However, the outcome of the polls is expected to be overshadowed by deteriorating economic conditions after a recent government decision to impose ''correctional measures'' to save the government from bankruptcy.

Government of prime minister Abdullah Nesour lost popularity when it liberalized fuel and gas prices, a move that could be costly during the polls. The government hopes turnover will be high from the 2.3 million voters out of the 7 million population but a wide prevailing apathy is threatening credibility of the polls. A total of 1,400 candidates will be running on Wednesday for this monarchy's 150-seat, including 15 for women and 27 for electoral lists. Most candidates are businessmen and former officials from the government or security forces as well as tribal figures loyal to the regime. The polls will be held in the absence of some traditional heavy weights, the Muslim Brotherhood and its influential political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), whose leaders refuse to take part in the polls in protest of elections law, seen as a tool to boost pro-regime chances over independent opponents.

''The new Parliament is doomed. Authorities failed to meet basic demands of the opposition and will soon realize the elections should not have taken place while the majority of people are against them,'' said Hamza Mansour, secretary general of the IAF, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist movement rallied this week against the elections but vowed to step aside during the polls, when ballot boxes open at 7am, local time and close at 7pm, with results expected to be announced officially during a press conference on Thursday.

The elections law also tips the balance of vote power to small towns dominated by east banker groups against the majority of the population who are Jordanians of Palestinian origin.

Officials from the independent election commission said vote buying has been reported in several districts, insisting measures adopting by the government will crackdown on ''political money''. Prosecutor general of Amman has recently ordered the arrest of at least 4 candidates accused of vote buying. ''Our measures during voting process will clamp down on vote buying. We have given permission to refer to the court all imposters,'' said Hussein Bani Hani, spokesman of the Independent Elections commission. The four year parliament will be working parallel to the House of Senates, which gets appointed by king Abdullah and includes former regime top figures. (ANSAmed).

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