Jordanians vote in parliamentary election

Image caption, Analysts say anxiety about the economy is foremost in voters' minds

Jordanians are voting in parliamentary elections that have been boycotted by the strongest opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

The IAF objects to a new law which reduced seats from urban areas while increasing representation from tribal areas which support King Abdullah.

The IAF draws its support from Palestinian-populated urban areas.

Voter turnout is expected to be low amid concerns over a sluggish economy and rising prices for basic goods.

About 2.5 million Jordanians are eligible to vote to fill the 120 seats in the parliament's lower house. Twelve seats are reserved for women.


Tuesday was declared a public holiday to encourage people to vote and buses were seen shuttling voters to polling stations in parts of the capital Amman, the AFP news agency reported.

"We hope the lower house will represent all Jordanians and enhance the country's achievements," AFP quoted Prime Minister Samir Rifai as saying after he cast his ballot at a school in central Amman.

In the mainly Christian city of Madaba close to Amman, about 30 people were arrested on their way to a polling station "for carrying knives and axes", police spokesman Muhammad Khatib told reporters.

And in Muqablein, in eastern Amman, a drunken driver was arrested after he crashed his car into a voting centre and injured two people, he added.

The election follows a year of direct royal rule, after King Abdullah dissolved the previous parliament - which was widely accused of being ineffective - half-way through its four-year term.

A fresh poll was delayed to allow a new election law to be drafted, but critics say that this ignored demands for reform.

The IAF - the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood - pulled out of the vote saying the electoral system is biased in favour of the ruling Hashemites, Jordan's ruling family.

The group has suspended seven of its members who broke the party's boycott and are running as independents.

One opposition figure, Toujan Faisal, who has been banned for life from politics over her campaigns against corruption and nepotism, has described the election as a farce.

"We need basic reforms. The economic situation is dangerous. People don't have enough money to eat or buy medicine. The government is just trying to have a facelift," she told the BBC.

Jordan faces an acute economic crisis with a record budget deficit of $2bn (£1.24bn) and a foreign debt of $11bn, nearly 60% of GDP.

The government has agreed, for the first time, to allow 250 international observers to monitor the vote alongside local representatives from non-governmental organisations.

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