Middle East

Jordan king urges Islamists to take part in polls

FILE - Jordan's King Abdullah, and Queen Rania applaud during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

AMMAN: Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday called on opposition parties, particularly the Islamists, to take part in general elections later this year after they threatened to boycott the polls.

In 30-minute interview with state-run Jordan Television, the king also acknowledged that "lack of confidence in the ability of state institutions" was one of the reasons behind pro-reform demonstrations in the kingdom.

"All parties, including the Islamic Action Front (IAF), are components of the Jordanian society. Anyway, our doors and hearts are open to everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood and their party, the IAF," he said.

"Having said that, we call on all groups to take part in this reform process and participate in the legislative elections," he added.

The Islamists and other opposition parties have said they were considering a boycott of the elections expected to be held by the end of this year over a controversial electoral law.

The law gives voters the right to cast two ballots: one for individual candidates in their governorates and one for parties or coalitions nationwide.

Only 17 seats can be contested by party and coalition candidates.

On Thursday the king ordered parliament to amend the law.

The Islamists and other Jordanians have been staging almost weekly protests since last year, demanding sweeping reforms that could pave the way to a parliamentary system in which the premier would be elected rather than named by the king.

"One of the drives behind these activities is lack of confidence in the ability of state institutions to look after the interests of the public and meet people's needs and demands for basic services," the king said.

"Add to that the fact that citizens are suffering from high prices of commodities, poverty, unemployment and discrepancies in the distribution of development gains among governorates."

"I side with these demands and fully support them, because they constitute a higher national interest."





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