Jordan Islamists shun election, cry foul

AMMAN, Ahmad Khatib- Jordanians turned out in numbers on Wednesday for polls snubbed by Islamists who alleged vote buying and shed doubt on turnout figures, slamming as illegitimate what is likely to be an opposition-free body.
Polls closed at 1700 GMT after a one-hour extension, and the Independent Election Commission announced a turnout of 56.5 percent.

Jordan Islamists shun election, cry foul
Commission head Abdul Ilah Khatib said the vote count had started and that final results and turnout figures will be announced on Thursday.
The Muslim Brotherhood questioned the voter participation.
"The turnout is very weak. The figures announced by the government are not accurate. The accurate turnout was around 16.7 percent at 3:00 pm (1200 GMT)," the group said after the government announced a 31.8-percent turnout at that time.
"There are several violations in the process, including vote buying and fake voter cards. We have information that security agencies have a scheme to increase turnout."
Jordan's National Centre for Human Rights reported vote buying in Amman and Balqaa governorate west of the capital.
Khatib insisted the figures were accurate.
"The voting was slow in the morning, but in the afternoon, the turnout increased. Our figures are accurate and realistic," Khatib said.
"We have nothing to hide. The election is being observed by Jordanians themselves and international monitors. We are not worried about the figures. We care about the integrity of the election."
There was no immediate comment from any of the various international groups that had sent observers
A total of 1,425 candidates, including around 140 former MPs and 191 women, contested 150 seats in parliament's lower house.
"The nation will not come to a halt at the request of this party or that group," Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur told a news conference, referring to the Brotherhood.
He dismissed claims that Jordanians were staying away in large numbers after the powerful Islamist group boycotted the election.
"If people do not want to vote, it is because they were not convinced of the performance of past parliaments or electoral integrity," he said, adding that "this time, the elections are clean."
"We respect all political parties and their views. But this is a democratic march, and boycotting is not a solution," Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told AFP.
Police chief Hussein Majali told reporters "tear gas was fired to prevent a group of people who wanted to meddle with the voting process in a polling station in a southern city."
"We need a parliament that will solve our problems, improve our lives and fight the corruption plaguing the country," Rima Hattar, a 32-year-old schoolteacher, said after voting in the Christian city of Fuheis, near Amman.
The Islamists and the National Reform Front of former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat boycotted, arguing there was no real will to reform.
"The coming parliament will be short-lived because it will not have any political weight," deputy Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Rsheid said. "Our boycott was the right decision because a parliament or government that is imposed on people is illegitimate."
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 youth and Islamists have been demanding sweeping political and economic reforms.
Their protests have become increasingly vocal and, in a deadly November rioting over a sharp hike in fuel prices, there were unprecedented calls for King Abdullah II to step down.
But analysts say tribal leaders, other pro-regime figures and independent businessmen are set to sweep the polls in the country of 6.8 million people.
The vote "will add to problems instead of solving them, particularly under the boycott. We will see a parliament that does not have political weight," analyst Oraib Rintawi of the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies told AFP.
The king has said he plans for the first time to consult MPs before naming a premier, insisting that strong political parties are needed to help pave the way for parliamentary government.

Thursday, January 24th 2013
Ahmad Khatib

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