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Middle East

Tribal leaders, loyalists sweep Jordan vote

Head of the Independent Commission for Elections Abdul Ellah Al-Khatib (R) speaks as Hussein Bani Hani the Independent Commission spokesman (L) listens on during a press conference in Amman to announce the results of the parliamentary elections on January 24, 2013. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI

AMMAN: Tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen are set to sweep Jordan's parliamentary election that was shunned by Islamists, preliminary results showed on Thursday.

"These are still preliminary results which will be examined and approved by the Independent Election Commission," the IEC said in a statement.

"The results will become official once they are published in the official gazette, which is expected next week."

Analysts said the new parliament will be dominated by loyalists who will resist pressure for political reform.

And two US organisations which observed Wednesday's poll agreed that local loyalties would pose a challenge to King Abdullah II's plans for a parliamentary government.

The Arab Spring that began two years ago and toppled four regimes across the region also sparked regular protests in Jordan, where a combination of youths and Islamists have been demanding sweeping reforms.

Their protests have become increasingly vocal and, during deadly November rioting over a sharp hike in fuel prices, there were unprecedented calls for the king to step down.

Abdullah, whose throne is not thought to be under threat, had touted the election as a focal point for his reforms, which he said should pave the way for parliamentary government.

He said his reform plans include consulting MPs before naming a premier, who should in turn then consult with MPs before forming a cabinet.

But the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the election, saying the monarch's measures fell far short of true democratic change and that he should not have any say in naming a prime minister.

The IEC announced a 56.6-percent turnout of the registered electorate of 2.3 million, while the Brotherhood disputed this figure, charging there had been widespread fraud and vote-buying.

Police on Thursday said tear gas was fired to disperse rioters in different parts of the kingdom who were protesting the election results.

"Vote buying and fake voter cards were very clear. We will prove that our boycott was the right decision," Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, told AFP.

But the IEC insisted its figures were accurate.

The results showed that independent candidate Maryam Luzi, an educationist, won a seat outside the quota system which reserved 15 seats for women. Also among the winners were two women from Amman.

The US organisations which observed the polls warned of difficulties ahead.

"The unequal size of districts and an electoral system that amplifies family, tribal and national cleavages limit the development of a truly national legislative body and challenge the king's stated aim of encouraging 'full parliamentary government'," said the National Democratic Institute.

The International Republican Institute said: "Tribal allegiances continue to be the major factor in candidate selection and campaigning."

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

Mohammed Abu Rumman, researcher at the University of Jordan's Centre for Strategic Studies said: "The Islamists got a slap in the face when it comes to turnout, which was good. But that's not all. Parliament faces huge challenges."

"It will be weak because it will have many MPs who served in past parliaments as well as businessmen who used their money to win. These two groups do not have a clear agenda for change," he told AFP.

Other analysts too saw little chance of reform.

"The king... did not at all cede any of his powers to parliament, which anyway, will be dominated by loyalists. So his orders will be implemented in the end," political analyst Hassan Abu Hanieh said.

 

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