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Jordan (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Parliamentary Election --- But What Does It Mean?

Election queue in Jordan on Wednesday (Photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

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1530 GMT: Jordan. Opposition candidates have won a significant minority of the seats in Parliamentary elections, despite a boycott by some oppositon groups.

Initial results released by the Independent Electoral Commission had 18 opposition Islamists winning seats in the 150-seat Parliament. About a dozen leftists affiliated with pan-Arab nationalist groups, who are vocal critics of the Government. Fourteen victors from a centrist party are expected to lean toward the opposition rather than the Government in the legislature.

While supporters of King Abdullah claimed the majority of the seats, their vote total was far short of that in 2010.

1505 GMT: Yemen. At least six more insurgents were killed on Wednesday in the latest US drone strike in an escalating campaign.

At least 20 people have been killed in the past week in the near-daily attacks. Washington has launched almost 30 strikes since 24 December.

1454 GMT: Egypt. Protesters tear down a wall near the Parliament building as police use tear gas:

1254 GMT: Libya. Britain's Foreign Office has said it is aware of a "specific and imminent" threat to Westerners in the Libyan city of Benghazi and has urged British nationals to leave the city."

1224 GMT: Palestine. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has objected to the Palestinian Foreign Minister speaking at the Security Council behind the nameplate "State of Palestine".

The Foreign Minister's statement was the first Palestinian address to the Council since the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on 29 November to upgrade the Palestinians from UN observer to non-voting member State.

Rice said that the US does not recognise the General Assembly vote in November “as bestowing Palestinian ‘statehood’ or recognition". She continued:

Only direct negotiations to settle final status issues will lead to this outcome. Therefore, in our view, any reference to the "State of Palestine" in the United Nations, including the use of the term "State of Palestine" on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term "State of Palestine" in the invitation to this meeting or other arrangements for participation in this meeting, do not reflect acquiescence that "Palestine" is a state.

1138 GMT: Egypt. Bassem Sabry offers a bleak assessment of the country, two years after the start of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak:

While around this time last year many people were also quite angry and exasperated about how things stood in the country, the situation generally feels much bleaker this time around, and everyone is even more exhausted. To begin, the economy is genuinely suffering, the central bank has recently warned of Egypt’s reserves reaching critical levels (the governor and the deputy governor have also resigned) amid an influx of Qatari money in debate-stirring support, the pound has been losing value to the dollar, foreign investment and tourism continue to struggle and many locally are now abstaining from what they see as risky long-term investments. Egypt has been negotiating economic assistance with the IMF and international partners over roughly the same amount of time it takes to actually repay some loans.

Moreover, the current government has been widely accused of being non-transparent and non-consultative (a few observers have, not entirely falsely, suggested that the military was relatively more transparent while running the country), shaky and often going back on its often sudden decisions, lacking in vision and failing to manage the country or inspire confidence. The previous governments since the revolution have also either lacked vision or guts, or simply held onto the somewhat understandable restraining belief that they were nothing more than caretaker governments. The result has been that in nearly two years, no government has tried enough to do what was structurally necessary, or tried to do so in a proper, transparent and consensus-building way.

Furthermore, the country’s political forces have, over those two years, lost virtually every opportunity for consensus throughout Egypt’s transition to democracy. In fact, they could not even agree on a road map to such a transition from the start. The result has been an increasingly polarized and hostile political environment, with successive and increasing political sparring that recently culminated in fatal street clashes between supporters of the Islamists and the opposition. Their leaderships, and even some lower ranks on both sides (particularly the Islamists) are now locked significantly in a worldview that sees the other side as actively trying to destroy and even (re-)imprison them, if possible. The result is a destructive and ultra-confrontational political environment that can only bring the country down.

1133 GMT: Mali. Back from an academic breka to find the report that the Islamist Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) movement, which contrls parts of the desert north, has split. The breakaway faction has said that it is ready for peace talks.

The newly-formed Islamic Movement for Azawad said in a statement that it "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them", adding that it wanted a "peaceful solution" to the Mali crisis.

The statement, declaring that the new group iss composed entirely of Malian nationals, called on "Malian authorities and France to cease hostilities in the zones that we are occupying in the north-eastern regions of Kidal and Menaka to create a climate of peace which will pave the way for an inclusive political dialogue".

0715 GMT: Jordan. Jordanians voted yesterday for Parliamentary candidates, with the regime and the opposition contesting the significance of the ballot.

Late yesterday, the Elections Commission claimed that 56.5% of 2.3 million eligible voters participated in the selection of the 150-seat lower house of parliament, despite calls for a boycott. Authorities extended the deadline by an hour to allow more people to vote.

"Voter turnout was contrary to [low] expectations despite the calls for the boycott," said Mohammed Sweidan, an editor of the Al Ghad daily.

Pro-monarchy figures and influential businessmen were expected to take a large majority of seats in contests involving more than 1400 candidates.

The opposition dismissed yesterday's vote, amid recent protests and strikes over political reform and the economic situation. "This is a sham election whose results will only erode the credibility of the future Parliament," said Zaki Bani Rusheid, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood.

King Abdullah has tried to curb the influence of the Brotherhood, meeting activists from the secular opposition and asking them not to join yesterday's boycott. 

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