Agence France Presse
AMMAN: Jordanians turned out in force Tuesday for an election likely to produce MPs with tribal links and loyal to a government that faces little challenge after opposition Islamists pulled out.
Polls closed at 7 pm, and senior election official Saad Shehab announced that turnout had reached 53 percent.
“Voting will not be extended and counting started immediately after the polls closed,” he said.
The official results are expected to be announced by Interior Minister Nayef Qadi on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Samir Rifai said the Islamist boycott did not affect the elections. “The turnout shows that the boycott did not have an impact on voting,” he told reporters.
The polls came as Jordan faces an economic crisis with a record budget deficit of $2 billion and a foreign debt of $11 billion, or nearly 60 percent of GDP.
“The election is key to our democratic march and reforms … in order to serve citizens in line with a partnership between the government and Parliament,” King Abdullah II said.
Jordan has been without a parliament since last November when the king dissolved the legislature and called an election two years early after press allegations about ineffectiveness and corruption among MPs.
Around 2.5 million Jordanians were eligible to vote at 1,492 polling stations, with 763 candidates vying for a four-year term in the 120-seat lower house of Parliament. Twelve seats were reserved for women.
In election-related violence, a 25-year-old man was shot dead and two others wounded in clashes between rival supporters in the southern city of Karak, police said.
And around 30 people were arrested on their way to a polling station “for carrying knives and axes” in Madaba, near Amman, police spokesman Mohammed Khatib said.
In eastern Amman, a drunken driver was arrested after he rammed through a polling center, injuring two people, Khatib said.