Jordanians vote to elect new parliament

AMMAN: Jordanians went to the polls on Tuesday to vote for a new parliament, even as the kingdom struggles to contain an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
More than 4.6 million people are registered to elect the 130-member House of Representatives.
Voter Rehab Mostafa, 60, said she is worried about the surge in daily infections in recent weeks, but was encouraged by rules imposed by the authorities.
“I am worried, but everything is organized here’’, the mother of 10 told dpa after casting her ballot in eastern Amman.
The Independent Election Commission has introduced precautions to ensure social-distancing and prevent overcrowding.
Face masks are required for voters if they want to enter polling stations. Each person is to be given gloves and a pen.
Voters’ identifications are being scanned electronically. Individuals no longer dip their fingers in ink, the usual measure to prevent people from casting multiple ballots. Instead, officials mark voters’ fingers using a dropper.
“It is going smoothly, everybody is wearing face masks and officials are ensuring physical distancing inside’’, Bashir Nabil, a 26-year-old engineer, said.
Observers expected turnout to be low amid widespread criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic and apathy to the political process.
Some are angry that the polls were not postponed, given the kingdom has imposed frequent weekend lockdowns, extended a night-time curfew and closed schools and some business activities. Nabil said he hopes the lawmakers in the new parliament will work to eradicate corruption in particular.
“I hope they at least try to implement parts of their electoral programmes, because the problem is that many only repeat slogans, so I hope the ones I voted for are responsible’’, Nabil added.
Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh praised “the smooth process” after casting his ballot in the city of Aydoun.
“The pandemic is an additional challenge to the election commission’s work organising and supervising impartial, transparent and free elections’’, Al Khasaweneh told reporters.
“We hope this experience produces a parliament that can meet the aspirations of the people and the country’s leader’’, he added, referring to King Abdallah.
The next parliament is expected to face public anger related to several issues, including the economic repercussion of the coronavirus, evidenced by a soaring unemployment rate that stood at 23 per cent in the second quarter. Jordan’s economy is expected to contract by 3.7 per cent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
It will also be expected to respond to the regional changes expected after the US-brokered normalisation deals between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Jordan hosts 2.3 million Palestinian refugees.
There are 294 lists this year, which include more than 1,600 candidates vying for seats in 23 electoral districts.
A four-day lockdown will begin later on Tuesday, after which people will not be allowed to leave their houses, to prevent large gatherings and celebrations by the winning candidates.
Jordan has recorded more than 110,000 coronavirus infections and 1,295 people have died of the virus, 98 per cent of them during the past two months. — AFP