Initial results in Jordan’s first parliamentary elections since the start of the Arab uprising indicated that pro-government candidates will dominate the newly empowered parliament.
Despite a boycott by opposition parties, Islamists and other opposition figures have won more than 30 seats, giving them a significant voice. The main Islamic party in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), shunned the election, saying that the poll was designed to curb its influence.
At least eight Islamist candidates, running as independents, are thought to have won seats in the 150-member chamber, along with several other opposition figures including trade unionists and other pan-Arab leftists.
State television said that most of the seats contested were won by independents and candidates with limited political agendas who rely instead on tribal allegiances, according to Reuters.
Jordan’s government, headed by its hitherto absolute monarch King Abdullah II, is a strong ally of the West and has managed to avoid demonstrations such as those seen over the last two years in other Middle Eastern countries, which have toppled unelected leaders.
However, sporadic protests in Jordan and the rising popularity of Islamic parties across the region have convinced Amman to dilute the powers of the King. The new parliament will elect a new Prime Minister and have other powers in areas of economic and social policy.
The kingdom described the election as a “milestone” in the nation’s history and said that the turnout was about 56 per cent. That was disputed by the IAF, which claimed that the figure was vastly inflated. There appeared to be at least some truth in the Islamists’ claim. In Jordan’s major cities, where they have their strongest support, turnout was measured at about 40 per cent, rising to 70 per cent in rural areas, which tend to be loyal to the administration.
The deputy head of the IAF, Zaki Bani Rusheid, said the new parliament was no different from previous assemblies packed by government loyalists. “This assembly has the same credentials as the previous one in its weakness and lack of will in practising its constitutional role in legislation and making governments accountable,” he told Reuters.