Middle East

Jordan early poll results favour loyalist candidates

Jordanian officials count ballot papers Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Authorities had hailed the poll as proof of democratic reforms

Initial results from Jordan's parliamentary poll suggest pro-government candidates will form a majority in the new assembly.

The polls were boycotted by the opposition, which alleged fraud and said the voting system was rigged in favour of pro-government loyalists.

Turnout was 56.6%, the electoral commission said.

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

However, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), parties are traditionally small and weak in Jordan.

While he has promised that parliament will be consulted, the king has warned it may not be possible to appoint an MP as prime minister.

The king 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.

But he says change will be very gradual and it will take one or two parliamentary cycles before proper political parties emerge, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in the capital, Amman.

Voting on Wednesday was extended by an hour, with polls closing at 20:00 (17:00 GMT).

The opposition cast doubt on official turnout figures, saying the figures were inflated during the last two hours of voting, our correspondent says.

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

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 - where the opposition is strongest - but are allocated less than a third of the seats.

Bedouin tribes tend to dominate the rural areas of the country. These same tribes are strongly represented in the government and security forces, and are the bedrock of the monarchy.

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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