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Jordan deploys security forces on eve of 'landmark' elections

By Michael Martinez, CNN
January 23, 2013 -- Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT)
Jordanian polling station officials read lists explaining the distribution of ballot boxes in Amman on Tueday.
Jordanian polling station officials read lists explaining the distribution of ballot boxes in Amman on Tueday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A newly created commission will oversee elections as part of reforms
  • Jordan will hold "landmark" elections Wednesday as it transitions to parliamentary government
  • Up to 47,000 police officers are deployed Tuesday to voting centers
  • Reforms will make Jordan "more transparent, fair and inclusive," king says

(CNN) -- The Jordanian government set the stage for Wednesday's landmark parliamentary elections by assigning 47,000 police officers to polling and vote-counting centers, the state-run Petra news agency said.

For the first time in the kingdom's history, the newly formed Independent Elections Commission will oversee elections as part of reforms designed to make the country more democratic, according to Petra and King Abdullah II.

A field of 1,425 candidates will be running for seats in the new 150-member House of Deputies, Petra said.

More than 2.27 million Jordanians are eligible to vote for the kingdom's 17th parliament, a vote that will be monitored by more than 7,000 local and outside observers, officials said.

The deployed security force includes 17,000 gendarmerie members, the agency said.

Police have already surveyed the 1,532 election day facilities "to ward off any hindrances that could mar the electoral process," Petra said.

"Security bodies will make sure nothing illegal runs inside or outside a center," the Public Security Department added in a statement.

The security forces will carry out directives from the newly formed Independent Election Commission, and together they will facilitate media and observers so that they can perform in "a free and transparent fashion," officials said.

In a discussion paper posted on Jordan's U.S. Embassy website, Abdullah said the country is transitioning to parliamentary government and has "enhanced the separation of powers, the checks and balances of our governance system, the independence of our judiciary and the inalienable rights of our citizens."

Jordan has amended one third of the Constitution and established a constitutional court, the king said.

"These actions empower the Jordanian people to shape the country's future in a way that is more transparent, fair and inclusive than ever before," Abdullah wrote. "Crafting a modern democratic society will be the product of our learning and developing together over time, not a single moment or set of reforms."

Meanwhile, the president of a criminal court just outside Amman ordered Tuesday the release of a local candidate in Salt after he was accused of vote-buying, Petra reported.

Nidal Hiyari was also charged with holding voter identification documents in violation of the elections law, Petra said.

Israeli election could halt rightward swing

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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