Jordanian Islamists protest against new parliament

AMMAN Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:17pm GMT

1 of 2. A protester shouts slogans during a demonstration to demand political and economic reforms, and access to corruption cases, organised by the Islamic Action Front and other opposition parties after Friday prayers in Amman February 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Majed Jaber

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Hundreds of Islamists demonstrated in Jordan on Friday to demand faster political reform after an election last month that produced a mostly pro-government parliament.

Supporters of the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood marched from the main Husseini mosque to downtown Amman in the first such protest since the January 23 ballot, which the group boycotted saying electoral rules were loaded against it.

"Reform is what is required. Justice and freedom and not these sham elections and deputies," protesters chanted.

The Brotherhood boycott of Jordan's first parliamentary poll since Arab uprisings began two years ago left an assembly dominated by conservative tribal figures and some businessmen.

Islamist leaders they would pursue demands for an overhaul of an electoral law that favours rural, tribal areas and under-represents cities where the Brotherhood is strong.

More than two thirds of Jordan's seven million people live in cities but are allocated less than a third of assembly seats.

"The Jordanian people have resumed their protests to assert that the reform movement is not over," the Brotherhood's deputy leader, Zaki Bin Rushaid, told Reuters. "The legislation and the past elections do not satisfy the demands of the people."

Popular demonstrations in Jordan have been on a smaller scale than those which toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and which led to armed conflicts in Libya and Syria.

Some protesters angered by corruption have called for the overthrow of King Abdullah, but most have demanded reform that would limit the powers of the U.S.-backed monarch.

The Islamist demonstrators called for constitutional changes that would go further than last year's reforms which devolved some of the king's prerogatives to parliament.

"We want to change the constitution, we want to reform the regime so the country moves ahead," scores of youths chanted.

King Abdullah, who has previously handpicked his prime ministers, this month asked his royal court chief to canvas members of parliament on who should lead the next government.

A new government is expected to be formed in the next two weeks, but no prime minister has yet been named.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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