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Parliamentary elections draw 1.29 million Jordanians to the ballot box

A Jordanian man casts his vote at a polling station in Amman. [Ali al-Rawashdah/Al-Shorfa]

A Jordanian man casts his vote at a polling station in Amman. [Ali al-Rawashdah/Al-Shorfa]

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Nearly 1.29 million Jordanian voters – 56.7% of the registered electorate – turned out at polling stations Wednesday (January 23rd) to elect members of Jordan's 17th lower house of parliament.

Voter turnout was lowest in Amman at 43.2% and highest in the northern Badia region at 75.3%.

Due to strong turnout at polling stations in the final hours of the election, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) extended the voting deadline in all electoral districts by one hour, from 7 to 8 p.m., IEC President Abdul Ilah Khatib said.

"Today, the Jordanian voter has spoken," Khatib said during a Wednesday evening press conference, praising the political will mustered to ensure the fairness of elections.

He said this electoral process was characterised by openness and transparency and that the IEC took firm action to safeguard the voting process.

The vote counting process is being conducted in the presence of the candidates or their representatives, delegates from electoral lists, international and local observers and the media, Khatib said.

Thanks to local and international observers, instances of election violations were "minimal", he said. AFP reported that at least 7,020 local monitors and 512 international monitors oversaw the election.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights formed a team to monitor the elections, with around 50 civil society organisations and 1,300 observers participating, said Musa Braizat, the centre's commissioner-general.

"The snags encountered during the process were mostly technical," he told reporters on Wednesday evening. "Some polling stations opened their doors 30 to 35 minutes late, affecting 125 out of the 1,300 ballot boxes we monitored."

Electronic connections went down at some polling stations and campaigning continued to a limited extent throughout the voting process, he said.

"The election process went well, despite the occurrence of a few problems," Braizat said.

Lt. Gen. Hussein al-Majali, director of public security, said there were no incidents that halted the electoral process or prevented citizens from exercising their right to vote. Voting was conducted under tight security that included the deployment of 30,000 policemen and 17,000 gendarmeries, AFP reported.

Anwar Ziadat, a journalist who helped monitor the electoral process, told Al-Shorfa it was "remarkable" how "calmly and smoothly it went despite the absence of the largest political party in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front", which boycotted the elections in protest over Jordan's new election law.

Uncertainties about election transparency were alleviated when the elections were conducted, and because the turnout rate for registered voters exceeded 50%, he said.

'Constitutional duty'

The previous Jordanian parliament in June approved a draft electoral law that abolished the one vote system and replaced it with a system in which a voter casts two different ballots, one for candidates in their local electoral district and the second for a national electoral list.

The law also increased the number of seats in the lower house of parliament from 120 to 150, and increased the number of seats allocated for women and party candidates.

Journalist Kayed al-Majali said these are the first elections in which Jordanians have cast two votes.

The new national list system "is a step in the right direction towards strengthening politics and parties in Jordan", he said.

These elections and the adoption of national lists will pave the way for amending the current electoral law and improving Jordan's democratic experience, he said, adding that he hopes a new parliament will issue legislation to boost the reform and modernisation process.

Ali al-Dalahma, who voted in the election, said he hopes the election will change Jordan's legislative and regulatory environment.

He said he fulfilled his "legal and constitutional" duty to his country, "because Jordan needs the entire population to support the democratic process and fortify its internal front in light of the circumstances that are sweeping the region".