Jordanians have voted in an election that is being boycotted by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which claims the result will be rigged. Pro-regime figures were expected to dominate.
Voting began on Wednesday morning for a parliament that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has already declared will be illegitimate.
Some 2.2 million out of 3 million eligible voters were registered to take part. The government has promised that the elections will be fair and free and has predicted that turnout will be high.
Authorities say they have been working to enforce new election laws, with the threat of jail terms for "the use of cash to influence voters."
Several arrests were made in the days ahead of the vote - including that of the president of the centrist National Union Party, Mohammed al Khushman - for allegedly attempting to sway voting by financial means.
Claim of skewed representation
The Muslim Brotherhood claims that an unfair distribution of votes gives too much representation to rural areas and means the urban poor are sidelined. Widespread allegations of vote-buying remain.
"This is a sham election whose results will only erode the credibility of the future parliament," Zaki Bani Rusheid, the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Reuters news agency.
The boycott - which is also being observed by the country's National Reform Front - means that the contest is now essentially between tribal leaders, establishment figures and independent businessmen. Of some 1,400 candidates contesting the 150 seats in the country's lower house, only a few are running for recognized parties.
King Abdullah II told the AFP news agency in an interview in September that he viewed the Islamist boycott as a "tremendous miscalculation," urging Jordanians to embrace reforms being put in place.
Protests demanding that existing reforms go further have been on the rise since the Arab Spring movement began two years ago. Discontent has been exacerbated by economic pressures such as a sudden rise in fuel prices.
rc/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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