x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Jordanian Islamists step up anti-election threats

The January 23 vote may set the stage for a possible showdown between the king and the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Secretary general of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front Hamza Mansour, left, warns that Jordan’s largest opposition group will continue to boycott the elections and will escalate its ‘peaceful’ rejection of reforms pursued by King Abdullah II.
Secretary general of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front Hamza Mansour, left, warns that Jordan’s largest opposition group will continue to boycott the elections and will escalate its ‘peaceful’ rejection of reforms pursued by King Abdullah II.

AMMAN // Jordan's Islamist politicians warned yesterday that they will step up their campaign against next week's parliamentary elections and against reforms pursued by King Abdullah II.

The January 23 vote could set the stage for a possible showdown between the king and the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The group leads a fractured opposition in Jordan that includes liberal youth activists, trade unionists, Arab nationalists and Communists.

Traditionally, the Brotherhood has been loyal to Jordan's Hashemite dynasty, which claims ancestry to the Prophet Mohammed. Brotherhood leaders have joined cabinets in the past and held top government positions.

And unlike other Middle East nations where the Brotherhood was until last year's Arab Spring revolts banned or suppressed, it has been a licensed political party for decades in Jordan. But recently, the fundamentalist group has been eager to gain more power in the kingdom, seeing its peers now ruling in Egypt and Tunisia.

Yesterday, three leaders of the Brotherhood's IAF insisted at a news conference in Amman that the Jordanian opposition renounce violence as a means of coming to power even as it persists in the boycott of the elections.

"We are against the elections because they are a theatrical gimmick meant to maintain the government's strong grip on power," said the secretary general of the IAF, Hamza Mansour. "We call on all Jordanians to boycott the polls."

Salem Falahat, Mr Mansour's deputy, said that a rally planned for Friday by the Brotherhood and the youth groups would showcase the opposition's growth. Zaki Bani Irsheid, another IAF deputy, said the group would escalate its campaign against the elections and the king's reforms through peaceful means such as "street protests, public gatherings and strikes and by lobbying the next parliament".

The king has made next week's elections the centrepiece of two years of reforms he initiated to prevent an uprising in Jordan along the lines of Arab Spring revolts that to date have toppled four long-time rulers.