Jordan King Abdullah (Photo: Reuters)
Jordan's King Abdullah II on Thursday ordered parliament to amend a controversial electoral law after opposition Islamists threatened to boycott general polls expected to be held by end of this year.
"The king asked parliament today to hold an extraordinary session early next month to amend some articles in the electoral law to help ensure wider public participation in the process," a palace statement said.
Under the new law, endorsed by MPs last week, voters can cast two ballots: one for individual candidates in their governorates and one for parties or coalitions nationwide.
But only 17 seats can be contested by party and coalition candidates.
"The new law should increase the number of these seats to help develop political life in the country," the king was quoted as saying in the statement, after a meeting with Prime Minster Fayez Tarawneh, Senate President Taher Masri and Lower House Speaker Abdelkarim Dughmi.
The law, which needs the king's approval to go into effect, has raised the number of parliamentary seats to 140 from 120, including an expanded quota for women to 15 from 12.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood has described the law as "provocative," saying they plan to boycott elections expected to be held by the end of this year.
Calling on the king to reject the law, the Islamists said they were in talks with other political parties to form "shadow government and parliament," as analysts warned against "official rigging" of polls.
According to the constitution, elections should be organised every four years, but Jordan held early polls in 2010 after the king dissolved parliament.
The Islamists boycotted those elections in protest at constituency boundaries, saying they over-represented loyalist rural areas at the expense of urban areas seen as Islamist strongholds.
They have repeatedly demanded sweeping changes that would lead to a parliamentary system in which the premier would be elected rather than named by the king.