Women, Islamists lose seats in Jordan vote

AFP , Thursday 12 Nov 2020

Only 29.9 percent of the around 4.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election, choosing among 1,674 candidates, of which 360 were women.

Election officials wearing protective masks empty a ballot box following parliamentary elections, amid fears over rising number of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Amman, Jordan November 10, 2020 (Photo: Reuters)

Women and Islamists lost out in Jordan's parliamentary vote this week, according to results announced Thursday by the electoral commission.

The election for the 130-seat parliament -- 15 of which are reserved for women -- was marked by low turnout and overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has dealt a heavy blow to the Arab country's already debt-ridden economy.

Only 29.9 percent of the around 4.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election, choosing among 1,674 candidates, of which 360 were women.

The last election in 2016 saw a turnout of 36 percent.

Parliament has limited authority in Jordan, where the king has wide powers to rule by decree, but it has provided a platform for the opposition when it has not boycotted elections.

Only the requisite 15 women were elected, down from 20 in the outgoing parliament, Independent Election Commission chairman Khaled al-Kalaldeh told a news conference in Amman.

A hundred newcomers will join the new parliament, including around 20 retired senior military officers, though the house remains dominated by businessmen and representatives of powerful tribes.

Kalaldeh said the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and largest opposition faction, took eight seats, half the number it held in the previous parliament.

But IAF secretary general Mourad al-Adayleh told AFP his party had in fact won 10 seats, including two on another list.

The IAF fielded candidates this year in some seats despite the banning of its parent organisation in a Saudi-backed move earlier this year. In 2010 and 2013, it boycotted polls.

The election went ahead despite a rise in novel coronavirus cases in the kingdom, but measures were imposed to combat the virus' spread during polling, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.

A curfew was put in place after the poll aimed at reducing celebratory gatherings that could spread the virus.

But images on social media showed rallies were held in various parts of the country in honour of winning candidates.

Supporters of losing candidates also flouted the curfew, according to social media posts, which showed people attempting to close off roads with burning tyres and rubbish bins.

Security forces said some 10 people who took part were arrested.

Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh deplored the "violations" and announced that as a result Interior Minister Tawfiq Halalmeh had submitted his resignation "out of a sense of responsibility", and that it had been passed on to the king.

For his part, King Abdullah II took to Twitter to say the celebrations flouting the curfew and other such activities after the announcement of the initial election results were a "clear violation" of the law.

"We are a state of law and the law will be enforced on all without exception," he said in a statement.

Resource-poor and dependent on foreign aid, Jordan has built up a public debt that exceeds 100 percent of gross domestic product.

Unemployment stood at 23 percent in the first quarter, before the pandemic fully hit.

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