AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordanians went to the polls on Wednesday in the first parliamentary elections since protests targeting corruption and calling for greater political freedoms started to spread two years ago, shaking the rule of King Abdullah II.
The monarch, a close ally of the United States, is relying on the elections to quiet his critics and has promised that the contest could usher in the formation of strong political parties and allow the public a greater say in the selection of the government. His critics have dismissed the vote as an attempt by him to avoid yielding any measure of his absolute powers and say it is likely to contribute to a spreading sense of political alienation.
The country's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Action Front, boycotted the vote, increasing the chances that the election would be followed by more unrest. The Brotherhood and other groups that did not vote complained about an election law that underrepresents the kingdom's majority citizens of Palestinian origin, favoring members of tribes loyal to the king.
At several polling stations in Amman, the capital, campaign workers said turnout was light but that they expected larger numbers later on Wednesday, a holiday. By early afternoon, the election commission's spokesman, Hussein Bani Hani, said turnout had reached 24 percent of the roughly 2.3 million registered voters, according to the Petra news agency. In all, 1,425 candidates are running for 150 seats in the lower house of Parliament.
David Martin, the European Union's chief election observer, told The Associated Press that there was "no intimidation or harassment of voters" and only minor violations related to campaigning outside polling stations.
Before the vote, many Jordanians complained about the numbers of familiar faces among the candidates, members of previous, feeble legislatures who came to power in elections widely viewed as rigged. In the days before Wednesday's elections, the authorities announced the arrest of several well-known candidates on bribery charges, though their names remained on the ballots.
Outside a polling station in Umm al-Sumaq neighborhood in Amman, two brothers argued about whether the election mattered at all. "It is very important!" said Mansour Naimat, a retired air force officer, as campaign workers handed out fliers directly outside the polling station. Mr. Naimat said he cast a vote for a candidate who served in a previous legislature, and whose signature achievement, by Mr. Naimat's reckoning, was wresting a local graveyard from government control.
His brother, Hassan Naimat, laughed at the contest. "Not a lot of people will vote," he said. "Eighty percent of the Parliament is coming back. They are the same."
Correction: January 23, 2013, Wednesday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of seats in the lower house of Parliament. There are 150, not 120.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.