Jordanians are voting to elect a new parliament in a country that has long been a close Western ally and is now struggling to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.
Elections on Tuesday are being held to elect 130 members of the lower house of Parliament, with 15 seats reserved for women, nine for Christians and three for minority Chechens and Circassians.
The parliament was dissolved in late September, and under the law new, elections must be held within four months.
Jordan’s government is more representative than others in the Middle East, but most power is held by King Abdullah II, who appoints the government and can dissolve Parliament at any time.
More than 4.5 million Jordanians are eligible to vote in 23 constituencies. Polls opened at 7am local time (05:00 GMT) and are to close 12 hours later, although a two-hour extension is possible.
Political parties, including one linked to the Muslim Brotherhood group, are allowed to participate, but elections have traditionally favoured tribal candidates, businessmen and independents loyal to the king.
To encourage voters, the country’s Independent Election Commission said it has taken precautions to ensure social distancing and prevent overcrowding.
Face masks are required for voters to enter the polling stations and each person is to be given gloves and a pen.
Voters’ IDs are to be scanned electronically and individuals will not dip their fingers in ink, the usual measure to prevent people from casting multiple ballots. Instead, officials will mark the voters’ fingers using a dropper or spray.
The government has imposed periodic lockdowns and curfews since the start of the pandemic. It next plans to impose a 24-hour curfew for four days, beginning Wednesday.
The kingdom reported 5,665 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to nearly 115,000 – with 98 percent of them reported in the past two months. It has reported 1,295 related deaths.
Jordan, which has a population of approximately 10 million, borders Syria and Iraq, and hosts a large number of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.