Monday, January 21, 2013

Jordanian elections, boycotted by Islamists, will produce a powerless parliament

Parliament building in Amman. 

Jordanians go the polls on Wednesday to elect a new parliament that was supposed to bring real reform. But a boycott by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups such as the National Reform Front of former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat cast a shadow over the process. Tribal leaders, pro-regime figures and independent businessmen are expected to sweep the election.
The Islamist boycott is in protest at constituency boundaries that they call unfair, and at the failure to move towards a constitutional monarchy with an elected premier rather than one named by the king.
"We do not seek the overthrow of the regime. We want to reform the regime. Our boycott was the right decision because a parliament or government that is imposed on people is illegitimate. A comprehensive national dialogue is the solution,"  Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, told AFP.
The Brotherhood boycotted the polls in 2010 also, for a similar reason: in protest at constituency boundaries which they say over-represent loyalist rural areas at the expense of urban areas where the Islamists are strong.
"We hoped to see elections under a national accord  that would produce powerful MPs and put reform on the right track. But that is not the case," analyst Oraib Rintawi, who runs the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told AFP. "The coming election will add to problems instead of solving them.I think the turnout will be low. The opposition will keep expressing themselves in the street, escalating without violence. And I think their first protest after the elections will demand the dissolution of parliament, which brings us back to square one," Rintawi said.
Political analyst Labib Kamhawi said the election will be "disappointing." "The Islamists are boycotting the polls because they are not in their interest, others are boycotting them because the entire process is undemocratic. The result will be disappointing to the people because they feel there is no will for genuine reform."

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