Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood on track to return as opposition force

With a new system in place, results are emerging slowly but there is no doubting the low turn-out.

Jordanians vote in elections in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday, September. 20, 2016.  Jordanians are voting for a new parliament under revised rules meant to strengthen political parties and usher in democratic reform. Raad Adayleh / AP
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AMMAN // Early results from Jordan’s general election last night showed the Muslim Brotherhood were set to return as a significant opposition force in parliament.

A senior Brotherhood official said preliminary results indicated it was on course to win at least 16 seats in the 130-seat chamber, after the Islamists boycotted two previous polls.

Almost 24 hours after polls closed, the kingdom’s electoral commission had only announced preliminary results for three out of 23 constituencies.

It said other results would be announced “as and when” they were known.

As well as the performance of the Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front, attention surrounding Tuesday’s polls was focused on the low turnout, with just 1.5 million voters out of a 4.1-million-strong electorate opting to cast ballots.

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.

Speaking in New York at the UN General Assembly, King Abdullah said Jordan had pulled off a “real victory” by holding successful elections during turbulent times.

“This is a process we are engaged in despite the unrest in the region and the burden of refugees,” the king said.

Experts say the low turnout reflects a lack of enthusiasm among voters for a parliament with limited power to affect government policy.

Even after reforms to electoral laws, the vast majority of seats were expected to go to businessmen and tribal elders loyal to the royal court.

The new proportional representation system replaced the “one man, one vote” rule that had been in place since 1993 and had discouraged the formation of political parties. With previous elections dogged by allegations of vote rigging, Tuesday’s vote passed largely without incident, in spite of what the Islamists said were “several” irregularities.

Voting was monitored by 14,000 local observers and more than 650 from abroad.

Most voters were able to cast their ballots “without any significant impediment,” said a member of the international observer team said. The 45-member team said the election was organised efficiently and held in a “largely peaceful atmosphere.”

The team was led by Atifete Jahjaga, a former president of Kosovo, and John Sununu, a former US senator.

*Agence France-Presse and Associated Press