Jordan holds parliamentary election amid pandemic

Jordanians vote on Tuesday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic which has dealt a heavy blow to the Arab country's already debt-ridden economy, news wires reported.

More than 50,000 security force personnel were on hand to ensure masks were worn inside polling stations and social distancing maintained.Voters who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus face up to a year in prison if they ignore instructions to stay home.

Some 4.5 million Jordanians are eligible to vote. Polls close at 7 pm (1700 GMT), with results expected in the coming days.

On the eve of polling day, the kingdom had confirmed around 115,000 infections and 1,295 deaths in its population of about 10 million, more than half of them Palestinian.

Parliament has limited authority in Jordan, where the king has wide powers to rule by decree. But it has provided a platform for the opposition when it has not boycotted the elections.

This year, the largest opposition faction, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is fielding candidates in some seats despite the banning of its parent organisation in a Saudi-backed move earlier this year. In 2016, the IAF won 16 seats in the 130-seat parliament. In 2010 and 2013, it boycotted polls.

Leftist and Arab nationalist groups are also fielding candidates, alongside a much larger number of independents, many of them representatives of powerful tribes considered loyal to the monarchy.

Resource-poor and dependent on foreign aid, Jordan has built up a public debt that exceeds 100% of GDP. Unemployment stood at 23 % in the first quarter, before the pandemic had even fully hit. Schools have been closed since March and many Jordanian children do not have access to the internet for online lessons.

 

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