Women, opposition lose seats in Jordan election

The election for the 130-seat parliament was marred by low turnout and the coronavirus pandemic.

Only the requisite minimum of 15 women were elected, down from 20 in the outgoing parliament [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Women and some opposition politicians lost out in Jordan’s parliamentary vote this week, according to results announced by the electoral commission.

The election for the 130-seat parliament – 15 of which are reserved for women – was marked by low turnout and overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has dealt a heavy blow to the Arab country’s already debt-ridden economy and its key tourism industry.

Only the requisite 15 women were elected, down from 20 in the outgoing parliament, Independent Election Commission chairman Khaled al-Kalaldeh told a news conference in Amman on Thursday.

Of the 1,674 candidates running, only 360 were women.

More than 4.5 million Jordanians were eligible to vote in 23 constituencies. But only 1.38 million people, or 29.9 percent, voted – down from 36 percent turnout in 2016.

The last election in 2016 saw a turnout of 36 percent.

The vote was marked by low turnout and overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic [Raad Adayleh/AP]

Parliament has limited authority in Jordan, where the king has wide powers to rule by decree, but it has provided a platform for the opposition when it has not boycotted elections.

Kalaldeh said the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and largest opposition faction, took eight seats, half the number it held in the previous parliament.

But IAF Secretary-General Murad al-Adaileh told the AFP news agency his party had, in fact, won 10 seats, including two on another list.

The IAF fielded candidates this year in some seats despite the banning of its parent organisation in a Saudi-backed move earlier in the year. In 2010 and 2013, it boycotted polls.

A hundred newcomers will join the new parliament, including approximately 20 retired senior military officers, though the house remains dominated by businessmen and representatives of powerful tribes.

Pandemic violations

The election went ahead despite a rise in novel coronavirus cases in the kingdom, but measures were imposed to combat the virus’s spread during polling, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.

A curfew was put in place after the poll aimed at reducing celebratory gatherings that could spread the virus.

But images on social media showed rallies were held in various parts of the country in honour of victorious candidates.

Supporters of losing candidates also flouted the curfew, according to social media posts, which showed people attempting to close off roads with burning tyres and rubbish bins.

Security forces said some 10 people who took part in the unrest were arrested.

Greater Amman Municipality employees remove parliamentary candidates’ posters [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Amid the rallies and gathering, Jordan’s interior minister resigned on Thursday after a public outcry.

Interior Minister Tawfiq al-Halalmah said he took “moral” responsibility for the unruly events that followed announcements of the results of parliamentary elections held on Tuesday where most candidates appeal to voters along mostly tribal and family loyalty lines.

King Abdullah II took to Twitter to say the celebrations flouting the curfew and other such activities after the announcement of the initial election results were a “clear violation” of the law.

“We are a state of law and the law will be enforced on all without exception,” he said in a statement.

Source: News Agencies