Jordanians are heading to the polls to elect a new parliament as the latest reforms in electoral rules paved the way for the return of the opposition Islamic Action Front (IAF) to the monarchy’s political stage after almost a decade.
The polls opened early Tuesday morning and voting is scheduled to last for at least 12 hours.
More than four million voters over the age of 17 are eligible to choose 130 lawmakers from 1,252 candidates for a four-year mandate.
Among the seats, 15 have been set aside for women,nine for Christians and three for minority Chechens and Circassians.
At least 14,000 local observers and 676 others from abroad will monitor the polls. Among the observers, 66 were sent by the European Union, according to Jordan’s electoral commission.
This is while Islamic Action Front (IAF)--- the most organized political party-- which had boycotted two previous elections, announced in June that they would participate after the electoral law was amended.
IAF, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, competed in 2007 parliamentary elections, but boycotted the elections in 2010 and 2013 in protest at the electoral system and allegations of fraud.
The opposition party’s spokesman Murad Adayleh, also among the candidates, said IAF would push for economic and educational reform in a bid to “uncover the government’s wrong policies and address any mistakes.”
He said his party expects to win between one-quarter and one-third of the 130 seats in the legislative chamber.
Analyst Oraib al-Rantawi said he expected the party to clinch around 20 seats from about 30, which are in play for political parties, including leftists, centrists and conservatives. The remaining 100 seats would be split among individuals, according to him.
New election rules allow political parties to run lists, rather than a “single vote” system that benefited tribal candidates, according to authorities. They replaced the “one man, one vote” system that was introduced in 1993 and weakened political parties.
Critics, however, say the revised system continues to favor Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s traditional tribal supporters. They said the new parliament would be similar to the outgoing one, which was dismissed by Jordanians as ineffective in dealing with unemployment and other crises.
Back in 2015, the parliament passed a constitutional amendment that gave the king the right to directly hire and fire the heads of the army and the intelligence services as well as senior judges and members of the parliament’s upper house without government approval.
Before that, Abdullah II had only the right to directly appoint the prime minister.