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Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 15:34 GMT
Q&A: Jordanian election
Two women walk past election posters in Amman
The Jordanian parliament is still less powerful than the king

Jordanians are electing a new lower house of parliament on Tuesday, with economic concerns topping the list of campaign issues.

Much attention will be focused on the performance of the main opposition Islamic Action Front, although independent and centrist candidates supportive of the government are likely to retain their large majority.

What is at stake?

All 110 seats in the lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwaab), are being contested, with MPs elected for a four-year term.

Six seats are reserved for women, nine for Christians and three for Jordan's Circassian minority.

How democratic are the elections?

While relatively democratic by Middle Eastern standards, Jordan's constitution still imposes limitations on the elected legislative's authority, and the country's head of state, King Abdullah, retains overall control of the political system.

For one thing, the king appoints the prime minister and government, which can only be removed from office by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.

The king can reject laws passed by parliament, which again must produce a two-thirds majority to overcome the monarch's veto.

In addition, laws must also be approved by the upper house, the House of Notables, whose members are appointed by the king.

How will the election work?

Under Jordan's electoral system, Jordan's 45 constituencies are represented by several members of parliament, but voters can only choose one candidate.

Seats are awarded to as many of the highest-polling candidates as there are seats allocated to the constituency.

The seats reserved for women go to the six women candidates with the most votes of all those standing across Jordan.

Who can vote?

All 18-year-old Jordanians are eligible to vote - about 3.4 million out of a total population of approximately 6 million.

Boy at a rally in support of Jordan's Islamic Action Front
Jordan's Islamist opposition says it fears the vote will be unfair

The number of those who have actually registered to vote is 2,386,000, according to a report by the newspaper al-Dustour.

Who is standing?

Jordanians will be able to choose from 885 candidates, 199 of whom are women.

Most are standing as independents - mainly representatives of tribes and families close to the monarchy.

The largest single party competing in the elections is the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The IAF won 17 seats in the last elections in 2003, and is fielding a total of 22 candidates this time round. It is widely regarded as Jordan's best-organised political force, and has a strong base of popular support, thanks in large part to the Muslim Brotherhood's welfare services.

Although the IAF's MPs have in the past tended to be neutral towards the government, the party is now seen as Jordan's leading opposition force, in part because of the authorities' growing wariness of the popularity of political Islamism.

What are the main issues?

The campaign has been dominated by the economy, with most candidates choosing slogans linked to Jordan's economic problems.

The unemployment rate is estimated at somewhere between 14% and 30%, and economists say 2008 will prove a difficult year financially for many Jordanians, with fuel prices set to rise in January for the fifth time in four years.

In an opinion poll by the University of Jordan, more than 50% of those surveyed said unemployment and poverty were the most important issues preoccupying people.

However, more than half of Jordan's population are of Palestinian origin, and issues relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict also figure prominently in some candidates' campaigns.

Will there be independent monitors?

No. The government has turned down a request by the IAF for non-governmental organisations to monitor the election process, saying this would run counter to the election law.

Prime Minister Marout Bakhit has said that accepting independent monitors would be tantamount to admitting that Jordan's electoral system is flawed.

Will the election be fair?

The electoral system has been the main source of controversy, with critics alleging that is skewed against opposition-minded candidates and parties, who tend to do well in Jordan's urban areas.

Critics say the way the multi-member constituencies have been set up means that towns have fewer MPs per voters than rural areas, where Jordan's traditional tribal system and support for the king is strong.

The opposition IAF originally threatened to boycott the poll, after having claimed that municipal elections held in July were rigged.

There have also been numerous media reports of widespread vote-buying, with wealthy pro-business candidates allegedly offering money, food handouts and medical treatment in return for votes, despite government assurances that the practice will not be tolerated.

An editorial in the pro-government daily al-Dustour has accused "well-off" candidates of seeking to turn the House of Representatives into "a house of businessmen in order to... advance their interests".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



SEE ALSO
Jordan election marred by boycott
31 Jul 07 |  Middle East
Country profile: Jordan
09 Oct 07 |  Country profiles

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