Jordan king pushes parliament to widen election law (REUTERS) By Suleiman Al-Khalidi AMMAN 06/28/12 4:05pm EDT)
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(Reuters) - Jordan´s King Abdullah instructed parliament on Thursday
to reconvene next month to amend a controversial election law that
has provoked Islamist disaffection and a potential boycott of polls
that could deal a blow to democratic reforms.
A palace statement said the monarch´s message was conveyed in a
meeting with heads of the lower and upper houses of parliament,
composed mainly of pro-government deputies with strong tribal backing.
"The king instructed convening an extraordinary session of parliament
at the start of next month to undertake changes in the election law
to ensure wider political representation on the level of the nation,"
a palace statement said.
The monarch´s intervention could dissuade the Islamic Action Front
(IAF), the political wing of Muslim Brotherhood and by far the
largest organized political grouping, to withdraw a threat to boycott
elections after the law was approved by parliament.
Unlike demands for ousting longstanding rulers in popular uprisings
that have swept the Arab world, protests in Jordan have focused on
holding free elections and fighting corruption.
The king is viewed as a unifying force and arbiter among competing
tribes from the East Bank and Jordanian citizens of Palestinian
origin from the West Bank.
The monarch said elections he wants held later this year must bring
wider representation resisted by a conservative tribal establishment
that fears empowering disenfranchised Islamists and Jordanians of
"All the laws regulating political life will remain theoretical if
they do not lead to early parliamentary elections," the monarch was
quoted as saying.
The king´s move is a blow to a rubber-stamp assembly which promotes
the interests of a tribal political establishment run by native
Jordanians holding a tight grip on power.
Jordanians of Palestinian origin are excluded from the army and
senior positions, though they are pillars of business.
The electoral law that was approved last week leaves intact a
division of seats that grossly underrepresented the largely
Palestinian dominated cities, which are Islamic strongholds in favor
of sparsely populated rural tribal and Bedouin areas - the bedrock of
support for the Hashemite dynasty.
The law allocates only 17 seats to candidates contested by parties in
a proposed 140-seat assembly while magnifying the voting clout of
native Jordanian constituencies whose voting power far outweighs
voters in urban cities, where most of the country´s seven million
citizens of Palestinian origin reside.
The monarch urged parliamentarians to boost the number of seats set
aside for political parties, in a clear gesture to the Islamists.
"There has to be an increase in seats for the national list to expand
representation and political representation on the level of the
nation," the monarch was quoted as saying.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it is not turning its back on
parliamentary democracy but protesting what it says is an erosion of
democratic gains that has made elections meaningless.
"The motive behind passing the law is to continue to maintain a
monopoly on power and to deprive people of their right of choosing a
legislature that expresses their will," Sheikh Hamza Mansour, head of
the Islamic Action Front, said.
Government officials say they are committed to holding fair elections
that address long standing criticism of vote-rigging and fraud that
has marred previous elections. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi;
Editing by Michael Roddy) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 06/28/12)
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