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IEC chief promises flawless parliamentary polls; high-tech will help

By Omar Obeidat , Khetam Malkawi - Jun 15,2016 - Last updated at Jun 15,2016

Chief Commissioner of the Independent Elections Commission Khaled Kalaldeh speaks to The Jordan Times at his office on Monday (Photo by Osama Agarbeh)

AMMAN – Chief Commissioner of the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) Khaled Kalaldeh on Monday said the electoral oversight body is prepared for and committed to guaranteeing free and fair parliamentary polls on September 20.

In an interview with The Jordan Times at his office on Monday, Kalaldeh vowed significant improvements to ensure and boost the integrity of the vote and to win back the trust of voters. 

"Our message to Jordanians is as follows: We will guarantee there won't be a single dark spot in the upcoming elections," he said. "Hopefully, this time no one would claim irregularities in the election process."

Kalaldeh said the IEC’s mission is to manage the elections and to protect the integrity of polls to earn the trust of voters and candidates, adding that the commission is aware that the level of confidence in elections is low because of alleged violations in the past. 

Regarding the new measures, he said indelible ink will be compulsory in the upcoming polls in addition to improvements in the election and counting processes as technology will enable people and monitors to keep an eye on all procedures. 

“For example, when a voter enters the ballot centre, his or her identity will be checked on paper and on computer. A large screen in front of monitors will show the identity of the person, name and picture,” he explained, adding that during the sorting and counting process, cameras will help monitors see the names of candidates on the ballot. 

People will be updated on the vote count as the results in each sorting room will be displayed outside the room where monitors can be kept abreast of the progress, according to the official. 

 

Support by King, authorities 

 

Kalaldeh said that during the two recent meetings between His Majesty King Abdullah and the IEC board of commissioners, the King directed the government and the concerned authorities to offer limitless support to the commission. 

His Majesty stressed that no one has authority over the IEC and that no one can interfere in its work, Kalaldeh said. 

“Rendering the elections a success and ensuring utter transparency is the commission’s responsibility, its board of commissioners and administrative cadres,” he said. 

 

Islamists ending boycott  

 

Kalaldeh welcomed the Islamic Action Front’s (IAF) decision –– announced earlier this week –– to take part in the upcoming elections. 

“Now we will have all political parties and political powers participating in the elections. This is very positive and it entails a greater responsibility for the IEC,” he said. 

The IAF, the political arm of the old Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan’s largest opposition party, boycotted the 2010 and 2013 polls citing the “unjust electoral law and vote rigging in 2007”. 

Islamists have always objected to the controversial one-person, one-vote electoral system, which was discarded by the new law, and replaced by an at-large voting system in which candidates can run for parliamentary elections on one large multi-member ticket at the district level.

 

Local and foreign observers 

 

Kalaldeh said that between 7,000 to 10,000 local observers are expected to monitor the elections, noting that the IEC will send invitations to 52 international monitoring agencies, particularly from the EU and the US. 

“Anyone or any entity interested in observing the ballots, either local or foreign, can fill online applications posted on the commission’s website.”  The website is: www.entikhabat.jo

 

September polls in numbers 

 

On the number of eligible voters, Kalaldeh said it is over 4.5 million people as shown by initial electoral lists, adding that the IEC will receive what he termed as “clean lists” from the Civil Status and Passport Department after dropping the names of army and security agencies personnel in addition to convicts whose crimes deprive them of the right to vote.

This final list would include the names of around 4.3 million voters, he said, adding that registration in the upcoming elections will be done automatically. 

“People do not have to go to offices and register for the elections,” he said. 

Kalaldeh said that the September elections may allow those who reached 18 years of age to vote; this would add 200,000 new young voters. 

“The commission is waiting the answer from the Law Interpretation Bureau in this regard. It is whether those who reached 18 or completed 18.”

Kalaldeh said that 1,484 to 1,952 voting centres will be distributed across the Kingdom’s 23 constituencies, adding that ballot boxes will be around 4,500 to 6,000. 

On the number of employees to supervise and run the elections, he said that around 40,000 to 50,000 people are expected to help in the polls, in addition to more than 5,000 volunteers from universities who will be assisting elderly people and people with disabilities.  

Special centres for the deaf and the blind will be allocated across the country, he said. 

 

Candidates and spending 

 

Candidates can register for elections on August 16 for three days, Kalaldeh said. 

On political money used for vote buying, he said the IEC will not tolerate any attempt of electoral fraud if there was sufficient evidence. 

The chief commissioner said the IEC has set a ceiling for campaign spending for lists. 

In large cities such as Amman, Irbid and Zarqa, he said the spending and promotion campaign will be based on JD5 per each voter. For example, if the city has 200,000 voters, a list should spend no more than JD1 million. Spending will be under the supervision of auditors. 

 

Next parliament and Jordanians’ expectations 

 

Asked if he sees the next parliament as able to meet the expectations of Jordanians, Kalaldeh, who has served as minister of political and parliamentary affairs for more than three years, said the Election Law allows coalitions between parties and as well as coalitions between tribes and between parties and tribes.

“There is no more closed, small constituencies where voters’ support can be bought by political money,” he said. 

“But the outcome is in citizens’ hands. If someone sits at home and rejects to vote, the candidate he does not want to win will win. 

“So my message to people: Go out and vote.”

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