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Royal-Minded Bedouins Heed King’s Appeal To Vote With AM-Jordan-Elections, Bjt

November 8, 1993

ABU ALANDA, Jordan (AP) _ Bedouin women dressed in traditional embroidered robes jostled at polling centers, eager to answer a summons from the king.

Zahra Mohammed, a 55-year-old mother of nine, observed King Hussein’s appeal for his subjects to vote for ″moderation and dedication.″

″We are responding to the call by His Majesty not to shirk our responsibility and national duty,″ she said as she tucked her voting card into her thobe, a traditional Bedouin garment.

Hussein called on the kingdom’s Bedouins to help him thwart the Islamic fundamentalist candidates of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

And turnout was heavy in rural Jordan where Bedouin tribesmen, some firing their rifles skyward in celebration, crowded into polling stations to support local chieftains.

Bedouin tribal leaders were expected to make the largest gains in the elections, benefiting the most from a new one-person, one-vote system.

The Bedouins descend from the nomadic and pastoral tribes that have roamed this part of the Arabian peninsula for centuries.

Most have now been settled in urban areas, and are slightly outnumbered by the Palestinians who poured into the kingdom during the Arab-Israeli wars.

The Bedouins share a wide conviction that the Muslim Brotherhood failed to deliver on promises made in 1989 when it emerged as the largest bloc in Parliament.

Elderly women in black ankle-length dresses with Islamic-style head scarves rubbed shoulders with young girls in bright Western-style skirts. They voted early so as to leave enough time for domestic chores.

Mohammed, her face bearing the distinct green tattoos of her tribe, scoffed at the ″Islam is the solution″ platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is fielding 36 candidates.

″What we need is not slogans, but practical action,″ she said at the polling center in a school yard.

Despite conflicting viewpoints, the outcome of the voting in Abu Alanda appeared to be a foregone conclusion: The six or seven major tribes in the district are running their own candidates who are likely to eclipse the fundamentalists.

″We should have our own man in parliament,″ said Aysha Abu Zaid, 35, who said she voted for one of the two candidates supported by her clan.

Fatema Ajaybeh, a veiled woman who spoke through her brother Azzam in keeping with the Islamic custom of women not speaking to strangers, disagreed.

″I voted for the Islamists because they represent Islam, which shows us the right way to live,″ said the 29-year-old housewife as she shifted the youngest of her three children from one arm to the other.

″They may not be highly successful now, but it is only a matter of time before the society and all Muslims understand and appreciate the values of Islam against the creeping corruptive values of the West.″

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