AMMAN, Jordan, May 21 (UPI) -- Campaigning for Jordan's lower house of Parliament was officially launched Wednesday with about 820 candidates competing for positions in the 110-seat body.
Campaign banners went up on the streets of Amman as well as other cities and towns across the kingdom, promising voters a fight against corruption, seeking a "united Jordan," keeping Jerusalem the "eternal Arab and Muslim capital," and demanding democratic freedoms.
Paid advertisements by candidates were scattered across the country's mainstream local newspapers, pledging to "liberate Palestine" and "unite the Arab nation."
Campaigning is expected to dominate the country for the three weeks before the June 17 elections, which have been delayed for two years. The government had said elections were "untimely" because of the Palestinian unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
These will be the first elections since King Abdullah assumed the throne in February 1999 after the death of his father, King Hussein.
An official statement said 821 people had signed up as candidates when the three-day registration period passed Tuesday night. Six hopefuls were rejected on grounds they did not meet the requirements. Among them was controversial feminist Toujan Faisal, Jordan's only woman to have made it to Parliament (1993-97).
Interior Ministry officials said Faisal, intending to run for the Circassian and Chechen quota in Amman, was rejected because she was convicted and sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison for slandering the government and "dignity of the state" last year.
Faisal was pardoned by King Abdullah after she went on a hunger strike to protest the State Security Court verdict. She said Wednesday she was appealing the ministry's decision not to let her run.
Legal sources said the elections law does not allow anyone convicted of a non-political crime and sentenced to more than one year to run in the race. Faisal's lawyers countered that her case was a political one because it was stemmed from criticism of the government and was not a felony.
The former legislator, an independent, is known for her outspoken opposition to the government's domestic and foreign policies.
The Central Elections Committee in Amman also rejected another opposition figure Hakem al-Fayez on the grounds that as a Bedouin from the "central Badia" he had to compete for the three-seat quota for his region of origin. Al-Fayez, a human rights activist who spent many years imprisoned in Syria, told journalists he intended to appeal the rejection in court.
He said he regarded himself as a "Jordanian citizen with the right to compete in any district," adding he opposed the "degrading quota" given to the Bedouins and other communities.
The parliament gave a quota for the country's minorities, including the Circassian and Chechen, Christians, Bedouins and most recently, four additional seats for women.