Jordanian government faces little challenge in November poll

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AMMAN: More than 800 candidates have registered to stand in a Jordanian general election next month, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, but the government faces little challenge after the Islamist opposition pulled out.

A total of 853 candidates, 142 of them women, are to contest the 120 seats in parliament, of which 12 are reserved for women, the ministry said.

Around 10 Islamist candidates have registered to stand as independents, defying the boycott ordered by the leadership of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The dissidents have been threatened with expulsion from the powerful party.

The IAF leadership ordered the boycott in protest at the constituency boundaries set for the November 9 election which it says over represents rural areas considered loyal to the government at the expense of urban areas regarded as Islamist strongholds.

To the dismay of IAF, the electoral law adopted in May returned to the controversial voting system used in 1998 and efforts by Prime Minister Samir Rifai to persuade the party to field candidates despite the law failed to secure a change of heart.

"Jordan is committed to holding transparent elections in line with the law," Rifai told AFP.

Polling day coincides with the fifth anniversary of deadly suicide attacks on luxury hotels in the capital Amman which killed 60 people and were claimed by the Jordanian-born leader of Al-Qaeda in neighboring Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi. He was killed in a US air strike in 2006.

"Our decision to hold the elections on the anniversary of the 2005 Amman bombings comes as a message from all Jordanians in support of democracy against all forms of terrorism," Rifai said.

Jordan has been without a parliament since November last year when King Abdullah II dissolved the legislature and called an election two years early following months of press allegations about the ineffectiveness and, in some cases, corruption of MPs.

It was the second time the king had dissolved parliament early since he ascended the throne in 1999.

More than 2.6 million Jordanians, nearly half of them women, have registered to vote in next month’s election, the interior ministry said.

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