* King says new electoral rules needed for better democracy
* Islamists say election discriminated against urban areas
* Tribal establishment resists changes to election rules
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Feb 10 Jordan's king on Sunday called for
electoral changes to make parliament more representative, after
Islamists boycotted last month's national poll saying rules were
skewed against urban areas where they have most support.
Independents and candidates allied to Jordan's powerful
tribal establishment, which is strongest in the countryside, won
most seats in the national elections Jan. 23, after the Islamic
Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing in Jordan
and the country's largest opposition party, shunned the vote.
King Abdullah, who has close relations with the United
States, told the opening session of the 150-member assembly, the
first to be elected since the Arab Spring, that electoral rules
must change to nurture multi-party democracy.
"The elections were held under a law that was not ideal ...
Therefore I call for revisiting this law and reviewing the
electoral system in a way that wins consensus, promotes fair
representation," the monarch told the assembly.
The elections were the first since the king enacted
constitutional changes last year devolving some of his powers to
parliament, which critics said had become sidelined as powers
shifted to the palace and security forces.
But Jordan's tribal political establishment resisted the
king's efforts to grant a higher proportion of parliamentary
seats to cities dominated by Jordanians of Palestinian origin,
who make up a majority of the population of seven million.
Jordanians of native descent enjoy preferential access to
state jobs and government funds, although businesses owned by
citizens of Palestinian origin are pillars of the economy.
Constitutional change came after protests against corruption
and critical of King Abdullah. Though inspired by the Arab
Spring, they were not on the scale of those that toppled rulers
in Egypt and Tunisia and sparked civil war in Libya and Syria.
Jordan's native elite is wary of Islamists, especially the
Muslim Brotherhood, with its demand for political reform.
The electoral law as it stands gives disproportionate
representation to sparsely populated rural tribal and Bedouin
areas - the bedrock of support for the Hashemite dynasty.
Only twenty percent of seats were won by Jordanians of
Palestinian origin and their resentment could strengthen the
hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a strong following
among poor Palestinians living in camps.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it is not turning its back on
democracy but protesting what it called meaningless elections.
Abdullah said he hoped the emergence of parliamentary blocs
in the next few days would allow him to consult with deputies
for the first time before he appoints a new prime minister.
The king remains for many citizens the ultimate guarantor of
stability in Jordan, whose neighbors include Israel, civil-war
torn Syria, and an Iraq also riven by sectarian strife.