Jordanians are voting in parliamentary elections boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood, which says the electoral system is rigged in favour of rural tribal areas and against the urban poor. The Brotherhood and the National Reform Front of former prime minister and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat are staying away from the polls, which opened for 12 hours from 04:00 GMT on Wednesday. An estimated 2.3 million Jordanians are eligible to vote at 1,484 polling stations, choosing from 1,425 candidates, vying for a four-year term in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. “So far, 125,000 have cast their votes,” reported Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh from Amman.
Wednesday’s elections are based on a new electoral framework in which for the first time parliamentarians, not the king, will choose the prime minister.
The government is touting the polls as a milestone in a gradual process of bringing greater democracy, but the opposition says King Abdullah’s decisions do not go far or fast enough to end his monopoly on power.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the single most popular party in Jordan, with strong support in cities, especially among poorer Palestinians who live there. Four smaller parties, including communists and Arab nationalists, are also boycotting the vote.
The boycott has reduced the election to a contest between tribal leaders, establishment figures and business executives, with just a few of the near 1,500 candidates running for recognised parties.