Jordan parliament approves electoral law

AFP , Tuesday 19 Jun 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan speaks at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East in Sharm el-Sheikh, May 18, 2008. (Photo: Reuters)

Jordanian MPs on Tuesday endorsed an electoral law that scraps a contested one-person-one-vote system and increases seats for women, as the country prepares to hold polls by the end of this year.

"Under the new law, voters can cast two ballots: one for individual candidates in their governorates and one for political parties or coalitions nationwide," prominent MP Khalil Attieh told AFP.

The Islamists, trade unions and media have repeatedly attacked the one-person-one-vote system first adopted in 1993, which they say produces loyalist MPs who do not represent the people.

Before 1993, voters were able to vote for all seats in their constituency.

"Only 17 seats can be contested by candidates representing political parties coalitions," Attieh said, while the remainder are reserved for independents.

The new law, which will go into effect after King Abdullah II approves it, "increases the number of parliament seats to 140 from 120, including an expanded quota system for women from 12 to 15," said Attieh.

The quota system was first imposed by King Abdullah II in 2003 as part of his drive to empower women in the conservative desert monarchy.

According to the constitution, elections take place every four years, but Jordan held early polls in 2010 after the king dissolved parliament.

The Islamists boycotted these elections in protest at constituency boundaries set under the contested law, saying it over-represented rural areas considered loyal to the government at the expense of urban areas seen as Islamist strongholds.

The king is pushing to hold crucial early elections before the end of 2012 as Jordanians have held relatively small but persistent Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations almost every week since last year to demand sweeping reforms.

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