x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Muslim Brotherhood threatens to boycott Jordan elections

The Muslim Brotherhood wants the Jordanian government to fulfil its pledge that cabinet members will be elected by parliament and no longer be appointed by the king, and greater powers given to parliament.

AMMAN // Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood may boycott this year's municipal elections if the government fails to deliver on promised democratic reforms, a group spokesman warned yesterday.

The move is likely to embarrass the government, which is touting the vote as part of its wider reform process.

Spokesman Jamil Abu Bakr said the Muslim Brotherhood wants the government to fulfil its pledge that cabinet members will be elected by parliament and no longer be appointed by the king. "We also want to see greater powers given to parliament," he said.

He said the threat to boycott the vote was agreed upon by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, which is Jordan's most influential opposition party.

While Jordanians have not called for regime change as seen in uprisings in other Arab countries this year, there have been dozens of protests across the country to press for greater freedoms, including granting the elected parliament greater powers.

A new law was recently endorsed that allows for all of the capital city of Amman's council members to be elected, scrapping the previous system where half of Amman's council members were appointed by the king's cabinet.

Mr Abu Bakr described the move to open all council seats to voting as "insufficient". "All the moves we have seen so far are cosmetic," he told the Associated Press.

"We want to see actual moves and serious intentions for real reforms, or we will suspend our participation in the municipal elections."

He also demanded that the prime minister, Marouf Al Bakhit, be removed from his post. The Muslim Brotherhood and its more liberal allies are vocal critics of Mr Al Bakhit, a tough ex-army general they believe is incapable of delivering on reforms.

In June, Jordan's King Abdullah II said it may take "at least two or three years" to put in place an elected government to replace a royally appointed one.

Municipal elections are likely to take place in December, but a set date has not been announced. Elections for parliament are slated for early next year, but new laws governing elections must be endorsed by the present parliament.

Government officials want to have Jordan's 33 political parties merge into two or three parties, similar to the US or Britain. The head of the winning party would then form a cabinet.

Under the 1952 constitution, the power to name a prime minister and other cabinet members is vested in Jordan's king. The king also has power to dismiss parliament and rule by decree.

In August, Jordan introduced 42 changes to the constitution, which included limiting the jurisdiction of military courts, stripping the cabinet of the power to enforce temporary laws in the absence of elected lawmakers and marginally expanding the elected parliament's powers.

However, the amendments still allow the king to retain most of his absolute powers.