August 27, 2016

THE DEMOCRATS OF THE ARAB WORLD:

Jordan's Election Poses a Test for Muslim Brotherhood's Change (Yaroslav Trofimov, 8/25/2016, WSJ)

The Sept. 20 elections in Jordan--a monarchy where most major decisions are taken by the royal court--aren't likely to alter the country's domestic or foreign policies. But they offer a rare test of strength for political Islam in the region as well as a measure of what lessons, if any, the Brotherhood has learned from its disastrous experience in power in Egypt.

The head of the IAF's elections committee, Zaki Bani Irsheid, was released from Jordanian prison earlier this year after serving most of his 18-month sentence for criticizing the United Arab Emirates, one of the region's most strident enemies of the Brotherhood.

"Political Islam is one of the most important components of Arab society and it cannot be eliminated," he said in an interview. "But the Islamic movement has undergone a deep review of its ideas and discourse, and the experiment of these elections is a manifestation of this change."

The IAF boycotted previous elections in 2010 and in 2013, when many Jordanian Islamists hoped street protests here would bring them to power the same way they had in Egypt and Tunisia--and that Brotherhood-affiliated rebels would take over in neighboring Syria.

Today, after a series of setbacks and splits, some of them engineered by the Jordanian government, the IAF is embracing a very different posture.

"We have always raised the slogan that we want to reform the regime, and stood in the way of those who said they want to overthrow the regime," said Ali Saleh Abu Sukkar, the IAF's deputy secretary-general.

The Brotherhood's mother organization in Egypt was repressed and kept out of power from its inception in the 1920s until the 2012-2013 administration of President Mohammed Morsi, who is currently behind bars. But the Jordanian branch has at times belonged to the kingdom's government and often backed the monarchy at critical intersections.

Because of Jordan's complicated electoral laws, the IAF-led coalition, Mr. Abu Sukkar said, is unlikely to win more than 20% of parliament's 130 seats. Such an achievement, however, would be enough to make the Islamists the biggest organized political force in the country's usually fractured legislature.

"Elections will give us a chance to influence political life instead of being politically absent," Mr. Abu Sukkar said. "There is a buildup of resentment in the society, and going on with the boycott would have only increased that resentment. That would have further dented the legitimacy of the legislative process, and the integrity of the state."

Posted by at August 27, 2016 8:03 AM

  

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