x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jordanian opposition group refuses dialogue at protests

The Brotherhood, Jordan's most powerful opposition group, reiterates its stance that it would not participate in the national dialogue committee unless constitutional amendments were on the agenda.

AMMAN // Nearly 1,500 Jordanians gathered under a heavy police presence yesterday to peacefully demand change ahead of today's first-ever meeting of a constitutional reform committee.

"The people want to reform the regime," shouted members of the Muslim Brotherhood and activists from several other opposition parties from a downtown mosque after noon prayers. "'No' to the dialogue committee," they chanted. "People want to reform the constitution."

The Brotherhood, Jordan's most powerful opposition group, reiterated its stance yesterday that it would not participate in the newly established national dialogue committee unless constitutional amendments were on the agenda that would bring about a parliamentary government.

The 53-member committee was organised by the government on Monday and asked to draft a new electoral law and amending a law on political parties within a three-month period. Its formation came after several weeks of protests across the country.

Jordan's UN ambassador, Prince Zeid, told Reuters late on Thursday, however, that the Brotherhood could raise the question of constitutional amendments only if it agreed to join the committee.

"There should be no prohibition in raising anything, and simply because it's not on the agenda doesn't mean it can't be discussed," Prince Zeid said. "They should participate and they should raise [the question of constitutional reforms]."

The committee, headed by senate president Taher Masri and including leaders of political parties, journalists, government officials and activists, also included three Islamist figures.

"We insist on our position and we will not participate in the dialogue committee," Jamil Abu Baker, the Brotherhood spokesman, said. "We have presented our conditions and they were not taken into consideration, particularly the constitutional amendments."

King Abdullah told Mr Masri last week that he expects the new election law to produce a parliament in which all Jordanians are fairly represented, one which "works to foster justice, integrity, transparency and the rule of the law".

But the Brotherhood and several other opposition parties dismissed the committee as a body "that does not meet the aspirations of Jordanians".

The Brotherhood wants King Abdullah involved to lend it credibility and said it had reservations about the way the committee was formed.

"The formation of this committee is not promising, we have not been consulted. We were surprised by the appointments. We believe that the committee will not be able to come out with decisions that meet people's aspirations. Therefore, we decided that we will not participate and there is nothing that calls us to change our position," Mr Abu Baker said.

Other parties, such as the leftist National Unity Party, said they will take part in the dialogue committee despite their reservations.

"We will attend the meeting to push for constitutional reforms and not just the political parties and the elections law. We are protesting to continue pressing with our demands," Isam Khawaja, the deputy chief of the party, said.

smaayeh@thenational.ae