AMMAN,(Pakistan Point News - APP -20th Sept,2016) - Jordanians voted Tuesday in an election that could see opposition Islamists re-emerge as a major parliamentary force in the key Western ally. Polling stations closed at 1700 GMT, after the electoral commission extended voting by an hour in major cities including Amman because of the "great crowds" of voters. The focus will be on turnout and the performance of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.
The IAF is expected to clinch about 20 seats in the 130-member parliament, which would make it the largest opposition force. The Phenix Center, a local pollster, had said 42 percent of those eligible planned not to vote, reflecting a general lack of enthusiasm for a parliament with limited powers to affect government policy. The vote comes as Jordan wrestles with the spillover of wars in Syria and Iraq and the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The kingdom is a member of the US-led coalition battling militants in both neighbouring countries and was the target of a June 21 suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group that killed seven border guards. King Abdullah II can appoint and sack the country's military and intelligence chiefs, senior judges and members of parliament's upper house without government approval. - 'Irregularities' reported - ============================= After polling stations closed, the electoral commission said 1.
49 million people had voted based on preliminary figures, compared with 1.2 million in the last election in 2013. The Islamist-led opposition complained of "several" irregularities, including vote buying, which it said had taken place openly outside polling stations. The commission said it was investigating the allegation, a common complaint in past elections. The interior ministry said 50,000 policemen had been mobilised to ensure security.
"Some minor incidents have been reported from some areas, like clashes between supporters of rival candidates and shots in the air outside one polling station," said national security director General Atef al-Saudi. The authorities pride themselves on holding elections in a region wracked by conflict since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Voting was monitored by 14,000 local observers and 676 from abroad, including 66 from the European Union.
"We in Jordan are proud of the fact that we have recourse to the ballot box and dialogue through elections at a time when you hear only the sound of gunfire in several countries in the region," said government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani. A total of 1,252 candidates were standing. Seats have been set aside for 15 women, nine Christians and three representatives of the Circassian and Chechen minorities. Businessmen and tribal officials loyal to the monarchy are expected to be the biggest winners. The Islamists boycotted polls in 2010 and 2013 in protest at the electoral system and allegations of fraud.