Jordan election: Voting ends as Islamists allege fraud

King Abdullah will consult parliament over the choice of prime minister for the first time

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Polls have closed in Jordan in parliamentary elections hailed by the government as a gradual move towards greater democracy but boycotted by the opposition, which alleges fraud.

Polls closed at 20:00 (17:00 GMT). Turnout was 56.5%, the electoral commission said.

For the first time, the king is set to name a prime minister from the largest blocs, or someone approved by them.

However, the opposition says the voting system is rigged in favour of the king.

Opposition parties boycotted the election over changes to the voting system.

King Abdullah has launched a series of reforms over the past two years in a bid to stave off a popular uprising like those which have led to the overthrow of four other Arab rulers.

'Sham'

Voting on Wednesday was extended by an hour.

The opposition cast doubt on official turnout figures, saying the figures were inflated during the last two hours of voting, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem, in the capital, Amman.

The king himself says change will be very gradual and it will take one or two parliamentary cycles before proper political parties emerge, our correspondent says.

Jordan's Prime Minister, Abdullah Ensour: "The achievement this time, is that we were able to conduct clean elections."

After casting his vote, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the election was a "stepping stone, or a station, on the path to more vigorous, serious, real and genuine reforms".

"More democracy is coming," he told reporters.

Mr Ensour is expected to remain caretaker prime minister until the king names a successor, who should be drawn from the parties or blocs which control the largest number of seats in the House of Representatives.

However, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), parties are traditionally small and weak in Jordan. The king has warned it may not be possible to appoint an MP as prime minister, but promised parliament would be consulted.

Critics - led by the IAF - have said the reform does not go far enough.

Jordanian elections

  • 2.27 million registered voters of a population of 6.9 million
  • 150 seats in parliament: 27 chosen through proportional representation on nationwide party lists, 15 go to female candidates by quota and the remainder are chosen by first past the post constituency system
  • Independent Electoral Commission set up to deal with complaints of fraud
  • Islamic Action Front, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotting poll

They are also demanding changes to the electoral law approved by parliament in July 2012, which increased the number of seats to 150 and gave the electorate two votes - one for a district representative and one for national-level lists that include political parties - replacing the single non-transferable vote.

Opposition parties demanded that 50% of seats be allocated to party lists, but the new electoral law gave them just 27 seats, or 18%. And more than two-thirds of Jordan's seven million people live in cities but are allocated less than a third of the seats.

The amendments also appeared to strengthen the hand of supporters of the king by allocating more seats to women from Bedouin districts.

This, the opposition argues, would continue to marginalise Jordanians of Palestinian origin in favour of those descended from Jordan's original Bedouin inhabitants, whose tribes dominate the government and security forces and are the bedrock of the monarchy.

"This is a sham election whose results will only erode the credibility of the future parliament," said Zaki Bani Rusheid of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Correction 25 January 2013: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that members of the Jordanian security forces were allowed to vote for the first time.

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