AMMAN (AFP) - Polling stations in Jordan opened today in a vote boycotted by Islamists behind strident pro-reform protests who have already labelled as illegitimate what is expected to be an opposition-free parliament.
Analysts say tribal leaders and other pro-regime figures, along with independent businessmen, are expected to sweep the polls in the country of 6.8 million people.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the National Reform Front of former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat are staying away from the polls, which opened for 12 hours from 7am (0400 GMT).
Around 2.3 million Jordanians are eligible to vote at 1,484 polling stations, choosing from 1,425 candidates including around 140 former MPs and 191 women, vying for a four-year term in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.
The Arab Spring movement that began two years ago and toppled four regimes across the region also sparked regular protests in Jordan, where a combination of youths and Islamists have been demanding sweeping political and economic reforms.
Their protests have become increasingly vocal and, during deadly November rioting over a sharp hike in fuel prices, there were unprecedented calls from some quarters for King Abdullah II to step down.
The monarch, whose throne is not seriously thought to be under threat, is hoping that today's polls will produce a new crop of strong MPs who will work efficiently to jump start reform.