The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, are divided over whether to participate in or boycott the country’s legislative elections.
Jordan’s legislative elections are set to take place November 10 to decide on its nineteenth parliament amid growing frustration with the legislative body. Jordan’s current parliament, elected in September 2016, is widely unpopular, receiving only a 17% approval rate in recent national polls.
The relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian state grew increasingly tense after the Court of Cassation, the kingdom’s highest judicial body, decided last July to dissolve the group “for failing to correct its status to be in compliance with Jordanian laws.”
Jordanian authorities consider the group illegal as it did not secure a new license under a new law on parties and associations enacted in 2014.
Jordanian sources indicated to the Arab Weekly at the time that authorities fear the Brotherhood could foment public unrest by rallying people over increasingly tough living conditions and regional development, especially in light of Turkey’s growing meddling in the region.
The relationship between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood further deteriorated in early August, when the teacher’s syndicate, accused by some government officials of pursuing an Islamist agenda, led protests against a government decision to close the union and detain its members.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a long history of boycotting elections.
In 1997, the group boycotted Jordan’s legislative elections in protest of the one-man-one-vote electoral law, which has been in effect since 1993 and which did not allow the formation of electoral blocs, which paved the way for candidates to win elections based on regional and tribal considerations.
In 2007, the group withdrew from Jordan’s municipal elections, claiming fraud. It again boycotted legislative polls in 2010 and 2013.
The spokesman for the Islamic Action Front Thabet Assaf told Al-Monitor, “Many reasons push us to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections. This is mainly due to the general political conditions in the country, including recurrent attacks on unions, such as the Teachers Syndicate, and the successive crises such as the marginalisation of the parliament,” in reference to the government passing a controversial gas deal with Israel without submitting it to parliament for approval.
“Add to this unprecedented security pressure on potential candidates [of the Islamic Action Front] and anticipated manipulation of the elections. We have evidence and data on severe pressure exerted on candidates to withdraw from the electoral race. We, therefore, feel there are no guarantees of the integrity of the elections,” Assaf added.
Consultations are expected to take place within the executive offices and Shura Council of the Islamic Action Front Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, with a binding decision reached no later than the end of this week to decide on whether the group will participate.
A slight majority of Shura Council members believe the group and its party should participate, fearing a boycott will lead to further political isolation that Islamists are desperate to break out of.
But there are also dozens of members of the group and the Islamic Action Front, even from within the parliamentary bloc, as well as teachers’ syndicate members, who have serious reservations about taking part in the poll.
Head of the parliamentary Reform bloc, which includes the Islamic Action Front, Abdullah Al-Akayleh previously said, “How can we reconcile between a royal will to conduct direct legislative elections for a democratic process and a sweeping attack on public freedoms, arrests of citizens, and arrests of officials from the Islamic Action Front and all the symbols driving the electoral process?”
The coronavirus pandemic – which has begun spreading more rapidly in Jordan – is expected to have an impact on electoral campaigns, as public rallies will likely be prohibited.
The health crisis will also push a large percentage of voters to refrain from going to the polls. Participation in Jordan’s 2016 legislative elections was only 37%. About 4,655,000 Jordanians are entitled to participate in the upcoming elections.
Little is expected to change in Jordan’s parliamentary makeup, which will likely include a similar tribal and regional mosaic even as the size of political parties shrinks, including the Islamic Action Front, which is one reason it is considering boycotting the poll.
© 2022-2022 The Arab Weekly. All rights reserved.