Voter turnout in Jordan election 56 percent after polls close

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Voter turnout in Jordan’s first parliamentary election since the Arab uprisings reached 56 percent after polls closed Wednesday evening, Al Arabiya TV reported, quoting the Independent Election Commission.

Polls closed at 17:00 GMT after a one-hour extension, and the Independent Election Commission

head Abdul Ilah Khatib said the vote count had started and that final results and turnout will be announced on Thursday.

The Muslim Brotherhood questioned the extent of voter participation.

"The turnout is very weak. The figures announced by the government are not accurate. The accurate turnout was around 16.7 percent at 3:00 pm (1200 GMT)," the group said after the government announced a 31.8-percent turnout at that time.

"There are several violations in the process, including vote buying and fake voter cards. We have information that security agencies have a scheme to increase turnout."

The Islamists and the National Reform Front of former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat boycotted, arguing there was no real will to reform.

Analysts say tribal leaders, other pro-regime figures and independent businessmen are set to sweep the polls in the country of 6.8 million people.

Jordan, a U.S.-backed monarchy, has seen large protests against corruption and criticising King Abdullah, though not on the scale of those that toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and led to civil wars in Libya and Syria.

"God willing, these elections will produce a good parliament that will consider the needs of the citizens. We hope this parliament will be better than the previous one," said Iskandar Nuqul, a voter in Amman's first electoral district.

The king remains for many citizens the ultimate guarantor of stability in Jordan, whose neighbours include Israel, civil-war torn Syria, and an Iraq also riven by sectarian strife.

The political elite is wary of the Arab revolts and the rise of Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood - Jordan's most popular party - with its demand for deep political reform.

Poorer Jordanians of Palestinian origin - a majority of the population - are drawn to the Brotherhood, which has become the champion of the disenfranchised. A wealthy Palestinian business elite mostly does not vote.

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