(AP) AMMAN, Jordan
About three dozen Islamists and other government critics who ran as independents have won seats in Jordan’s newly empowered parliament despite a boycott by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, according to initial results released Thursday.
The government has touted the vote as the start of a democratization process that will see the absolute monarch in this U.S.-ally gradually hand over significant powers to the 150-member legislature.
Jordan’s Independent Electoral Commission was expected to release the final results later Thursday.
However, initial results had at least eight well-known independent Islamists win seats across the country. The eight are not members of the Brotherhood, the country’s largest and most organized opposition group, which boycotted the polls in protest against an election law it says favors royal loyalists.
Along with the eight, about a dozen leftists affiliated with pan-Arab nationalist groups, which are vocal government critics, also won seats. The parliament will also have many new faces, mainly business tycoons, academics and professionals from various fields, with little political experience. Some of them are also regime critics.
The initial results show that loyalists of King Abdullah II have retained the majority share of the seats, though less than in the 2010 parliamentary election. At least 27 deputies from the 2010 legislature were re-elected and women won 17 seats, two more than the quota reserved for them, according to the initial results.
Election commission chief Abdul-Illah Khatib told reporters that the results would be updated throughout the day as “we get more confirmed counts in.”
The kingdom called the election a “milestone” toward a greater democracy, which will see Abdullah relinquishing more of his absolute power to the new legislature.
The new parliament will for the first time in Jordan’s history elect a prime minister _ a major power-ceding concession by the king in the wake of street protests over the past two years, inspired by Arab Spring uprisings. The protesters, initially led by youth activists and later taken over by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, have demanded more people power and a greater say in politics.
The eight Islamists who won seats have either participated in or organized the street protests. As initial results trickled in, it was not immediately clear if two members of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s political arm, also won seats. One of the two had earlier resigned from the Brotherhood to contest the polls, while the other was dismissed from the party for violating the boycott.
The election commission said 1.3 million Jordanians, or 56.7 percent of nearly 2.3 million people who were registered to vote, had cast their ballots.