Polls open in Jordan parliamentary elections

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AMMAN, Nov 20 (Reuters) Jordanians began voting today in parliamentary elections expected to tighten the grip of tribal leaders, centrist and pro-government deputies and which the opposition Islamists say they expect government fraud.

Voting stations opened at 1030 hrs IST in the contest for the 110-member assembly and are due to close at 2230 hrs IST. Most results are expected early tomorrow, according to interior ministry officials.

Jordanians lined up to cast ballots in polling stations across the country in elections in which 885 candidates are standing and the authorities say 2.4 million eligible voters are registered.

Most are expected to vote on mostly tribal and family loyalty in the second parliamentary elections under the reform- minded monarch King Abdullah who ascended the throne in 1999 on a wave of hope he would democratise the country.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), by far the country's largest political party and the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, reluctantly participated in elections they say takes place under an election law where gerrymandered districts are tailored to erode their gains.

Jordan's electoral system favours staunchly tribal constituencies over the largely Palestinian cities, which are Islamic strongholds and highly politicised.

REUTERS ARB RAI1253

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