Twenty people armed with knives were arrested in a western Jordanian city on Tuesday when they tried to prevent people from voting in a general election, according to the kingdom’s Election Committee.

Polling stations opened at 7 am (0500 GMT) and in most areas the election was running smoothly, state run media reported, with the booths expected to close at 7 pm. Key opposition groups have boycotted the polls.

A spokesman for the Election Committee, Samih Maayta, gave no further details on the people wielding knives in Madaba, some 30 kilometres west of the capital Amman, but said the detainees were being interrogated by the security forces.

In another incident, armed men tried to stop people from reaching polling stations in Mafraq, east of Amman, according to an accredited observer with Rased, a coalition of civil society organisations.

The observer, Amer Bani Amer, said there were also some other signs of irregularities, including people using forged identity cards and trying to vote more than once.

A total of 763 candidates, including 143 women, are vying for the lower house of parliament’s 120 seats, 12 of which are reserved for women under a quota system.

Islamic Action Front boycotts polls

The main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood—affiliated Islamic Action Front, is boycotting the polls, charging that not enough was done since the 2007 elections to prevent fraud.

In the lead up to the opening of the polling booths, political observers believed turnout would be the main challenge for the government, with dissatisfaction among the population said to be rising, particularly in regards to a sluggish economy.

King Abdullah II disbanded the outgoing parliament, elected in 2007, two years earlier than planned, saying the chamber had failed to perform its legislative and supervisory functions properly.

The government has allowed more than 2,500 local and foreign observers to monitor the polling process, the Elections Committee said.

The U.S.—based National Democratic Institute reported it had prepared 61 accredited observers from 18 countries to monitor the voting in various parts of the kingdom.

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