AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordanians began voting on Tuesday to elect a new parliament in the country that has long been a close Western ally in a volatile region and is now struggling to contain a coronavirus outbreak.
Voters will 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. 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. Political parties, including one linked to the Muslim Brotherhood group, are allowed to participate, but the electoral system favors tribal candidates, businessmen and independents who are loyal to the king, and the monarch appoints all members of the country’s senate.
Jordan borders both Syria and Iraq, and hosts large numbers of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
Authorities say they have taken measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling stations, but the outbreak could dampen participation.
The government has imposed periodic lockdowns and curfews since the start of the pandemic. It plans to impose a 24-hour curfew for four days, beginning Wednesday.
The kingdom, which has a population of around 10 million, reported 5,665 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing its total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 115,000. It has reported 1,295 deaths.