Jordan votes in poll boycotted by main Islamist party

Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:30am EST
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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordanians voted on Wednesday in their first parliamentary elections since the Arab Spring revolts, but a boycott by the main Islamist party will ensure no repeat of an Egypt-style revolution via the ballot box.

The popular Muslim Brotherhood shunned the poll saying the electoral system had been rigged against large, populated urban areas where it is strongest in favor of rural tribal areas where conservative, pro-government forces are entrenched.

Dozens of people lined up outside polling stations in several Jordanian towns before polls opened across the kingdom at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), witnesses said.

Jordan, a U.S.-backed monarchy bordering Israel, has seen large protests against corruption and criticizing King Abdullah, although they have not been on the same scale as those that toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and led to civil wars in Libya and Syria.

The government has promised free and fair polls and predicted a good turnout, despite the boycott.

"There are not two people in Jordan who are whispering that the government will interfere in the elections," Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told Reuters this week.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the single most popular party in Jordan - with strong support in cities, especially among poorer Palestinians who live there.

Its boycott has reduced the election to a contest between tribal leaders, establishment figures and businessmen, with just a few of the 1,500 candidates running for recognized parties. Allegations of vote-buying are rife.   Continued...

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour (3rd L) shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station in Al Salt January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hammad