A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Amman on Wednesday.  Picture: REUTERS
A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Amman on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS

AMMAN — Jordanians voted on Wednesday in a first electoral test of their king’s political reforms, while a boycott from Islamist-led opponents cast doubt over whether the vote would quell two years of simmering dissent.

As part of a reform package that aims to make the elected legislature responsible for much of the day-to-day affairs of state, King Abdullah has given the parliament the right to choose the prime minister, previously appointed by the crown. Broader foreign and security policy remains in the hands of the king.

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in the region set off a wave of demonstrations in Jordan, albeit much smaller than those that toppled autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan boycotted the election. "The parliament being elected has no colour or taste in the absence of the opposition," said Zaki Bani Irsheid, a leading member of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s political arm.

Julien Barnes-Darcy, a Jordan analyst at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said the elections fell short of the king’s initial promises. " There hasn’t been enough of an attempt to really draw in all the different parties, both supporters and opponents of the status quo," he said.

About 600,000 Jordanians, or 27.5% of the 2.3-million who registered to vote, cast ballots in the first seven hours of voting, despite early technical computer problems with the balloting, elections commission head Abdul-Illah Khatib said. European Union chief election observer David Martin said voting got off to a relatively smooth start, with "no intimidation or harassment of voters".

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour is expected to tender his resignation to the king shortly after the vote.