Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jordan holds parliamentary vote

Jordan holds parliamentary vote

Jordanians are voting in parliamentary elections being seen as key to the country's transition to democracy.
About 880 candidates, including a record 199 women, are contesting 110 seats in the lower house of parliament.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF) is the main opposition but independents, who are mainly loyal to King Abdullah, are expected to dominate the polls.

The IAF had threatened to boycott the polls, saying electoral law ensures independents will win most seats.

The voting took place amid heavy security with tens of thousands of police and soldiers patrolling polling stations.

I'm not voting for anyone because they're all liars - Islamists and all the others

Saeed Jalad
Officials played down reports of election fraud, although two people were arrested for vote-buying.

Interior Minister Eid al-Fayez told reporters that the issue "has been exaggerated by the media".

A government spokesman said turnout stood at 42% two hours before the 1,434 polling stations closed.

Economic issues

Correspondents say apathy and disillusionment are rife among Jordan's 2.5 million eligible voters.

"I'm not voting for anyone because they're all liars - Islamists and all the others," said Saeed Jalad quoted by Associated Press.

"They just want to grab seats in parliament and will forget about us and our needs."

The IAF, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, won 17 seats in the 2003 election.

The party campaigned against corruption and US and Israeli policies in the Middle East, appealing to the Palestinian refugees who make up a significant proportion of Jordan's 5.7 million-strong population and who have voting rights as citizens.

However, economic issues dominated most other candidates' campaigns. Jordan's unemployment rate is estimated to be between 14-30%.

Nearly four times as many women are contesting this election than in 2003, when 54 ran. Six seats are reserved for women.

The 55-seat upper house is appointed by the king.

Polls close at 1700 GMT and initial results are expected later in the evening.


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