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Polls open in Jordan municipal election

Aug. 27, 2013 9:47 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2013 9:47 A.M.)
AMMAN (AFP) -- Polling stations in Jordan opened Tuesday in municipal elections with the impact of a huge Syrian refugee influx on a struggling economy stoking voter apathy and resentment.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition party, is boycotting the polls, charging that, despite repeated promises since the Arab Spring of 2011, there is no real readiness for change.

With few candidates of the leftist or nationalist opposition standing, tribal figures, who are the traditional bedrock of the monarchy, are set to sweep the elections, which opened for 10 hours at 7 a.m.

But the elections come as Jordanians feel angry about the impact of more than 500,000 Syrian refugees on their lives and the country.

Officials say the refugee influx has placed a huge burden on already overstretched water and power supplies as well as housing and education.

Also, the government has announced a raft of austerity measures as it battles to reduce a $2 billion deficit this year and rein in a foreign debt that now exceeds $23 billion.

Last month, it doubled taxes on cellphones and mobile telephone contracts, and plans are under way to raise the price of electricity by 15 percent.

Around 3.7 million Jordanians are registered to vote in the elections, in which they will pick 100 mayors and 970 municipal councilors from around 3,000 candidates in the country's 94 municipalities.

The government however has announced that around 1.25 million of members of the armed forces, security services, Jordanians living abroad, and more than 40,000 election employees will not take part.

The electoral law reserves 297 municipal council seats for women.

Analysts say public anger is likely to lead to low turnout on polling day and might spark post-election disturbances.

Around 50,000 policemen will be deployed across the kingdom on election day "to prevent any violations and ensure a smooth process", police chief Talal Kofahi has said.
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