Jordan general elections kick off, boycotted by Islamists
Some 2.3 million people are eligible to vote in Jordan. On the eve of elections the Islamists sent passionate calls to ignore them, still polling stations were kept open for an extra hour to 8 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) to allow more people to cast their vote, said the Independent Electoral Commission spokesman Hussein Bani Hani.
Preliminary figures put turnout at 56.5 percent of Jordan's registered voters, but the numbers may be higher after the final count.
With major parties abstaining from the election process the majority of some 1,500 candidates are tribal leaders, public figures and businessmen. They are running for 150 seats in the country`s 17th parliament.
This is the first time Jordan is choosing the prime minister by general vote. The move was a part of a raft of reforms offered by King Abdullah in 2011 to soothe public discontent and shift the country towards constitutional monarchy.
But the Muslim Brotherhood and other oppositional parties have accused the king of simulating changes rather than implementing them.
“For all the talk of amending laws and reforming the Constitution, we are offered but minor changes, which will have no impact on the political system at large,” Zaki Bani Rsheid, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan told RT, “what we need is a true democratic transition, for the people to reclaim the power that they have been deprived of for decades.”
Jordan has recently seen several mass protests against the ‘cosmetic’ election. Protesters also called for King Abdullah to step down.
Forty-seven thousand police officers have been deployed to polling and vote-counting centers ahead of the election to monitor the situation.
‘Elections are Catch-22 for Muslim Brotherhood’- Jordanian PM
The Muslim brotherhood has been an integral part of Jordan’s political system for many years but the resort to a boycott has left them in a ‘Catch-22’-like situation, Prime Minister of Jordan Dr. Abdullah Ensour told RT.
The election in Jordan was not brought on by the Arab Spring, Prime Minister Ensour said in an interview on the eve of parliamentary elections in the country.
The boycott of the election by the Muslim Brotherhood, a party that has been part of the national political process since 1940s, was a mistake, he says.
“They were wrong when they resorted to a boycott after their request had not been satisfied. If you opt for a boycott, why would anyone change the law for you in the future? It would stay just the same. It’s a Catch-22. They should have participated in the election and enforced the change they are asking for.”
The Prime Minister added that Jordan “wants to be a state governed by the rule of law, that has clear goals and the determination to achieve them. A powerful state that isn’t split or indecisive”.
Watch RT’s full interview with Prime Minister of Jordan, Dr. Abdullah Ensour
An elderly woman is helped up a flight of stairs to cast her vote ballot at a polling station in Amman January 23, 2013. (Reuters / Muhammad Hamed)
Electoral officials show an empty ballot box before the box is sealed prior to voting at a poll station in Amman January 23, 2013. (Reuters / Muhammad Hamed)