Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Hardens Stance Against Regime

Article Summary
A new group of hard-line leaders have been elected within Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, writes Tamer al-Samadi. They are planning different scenarios to intensify demonstrations and protests against the government if real reforms is avoided. 

When the Jordanian King Abdullah II rushed to appoint Fayez al-Tarawneh as the new prime minister to succeed Awn al-Khaswaneh, the Muslim Brotherhood started preparing for a strong protest. The Brotherhood is against the appointment of a political figure such as Al-Tarawneh, who is accused of being "anti-reformist."

After the extensive discussions the majority of the newly-elected members of the Brotherhood’'s Shura Council decided to elect members of the hard-line Al-Suqoor [Hawks] to preside over the group. Many experts on Islamic movements see this as a message to the Hashemite Palace that the Brotherhood will continue to adhere to its previous political rhetoric regarding its conflict with the regime over its so-called "desired reforms."

The Brotherhood’s newly-elected leadership is entirely comprised of Al-Suqoor members. They are headed for the second time by Shaykh Hammam Saeed, who is currently in his 60s.  Zaki Bani-Arshid, who has historically been linked to the hard-line Al-Suqoor movement, was chosen as Saeed’s deputy.  Bani-Arshid swiftly organized provincial visits to mobilize the brotherhood's supporters. He seized the moment by urging them to demand more constitutional amendments that restrict the powers of King Abdullah II.

A prominent leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood stated that "the failure of former Deputy Controller General Abdelhamid al-Qudat, who is a major figure in the Al-Hama'im [Doves] trend, to become a member of the Shura Council" confirms that "the Brotherhood chose to escalate the situation with the regime. It is backing down on its past promises and drafting an electoral law that prevents the Brotherhood from even thinking about winning the majority of seats in the legislative authority."

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This figure believes that impeding reform and appointing a mainly conservative-controlled and traditional government is aimed at "infuriating the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in an unprecedented manner to adopt a more extreme political approach with the government.  This is chiefly after the Brotherhood had been seeking to create a lasting truce with the ruling power through a scenario that would be similar to the Moroccan one."

The Youthful Representative

It is worth noting that the new leadership included a representative of the youth, Ziyad Khawaldah. The 29 year-old comes from the Bani-Hasan tribe, one of the largest tribes in Jordan and has historically been considered as a major supporter of the regime. This was the first time since the Muslim Brotherhood was established in Jordan 70 years ago that the Brotherhood’s leadership chose a youth representative.

Al-Khawalidah is one of the most prominent figures in the "March 24 Movement," which was responsible for instigating demonstrations throughout the country over a year ago. The new leadership also included newcomers Ahmad al-Razqan and Muhammad al-Shahahidah, both from Al-Tafilah. The southern city has been witnessing mounting demonstrations against the regime and its intelligence agency.

Sources in the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood have said that "electing leading figures from Al-Tafilah city happened for a reason. Demonstrations in this marginalized city have quickly inspired other popular movements. The Brotherhood decided to honor this city in its own way."

The sources revealed to Al-Hayat that different scenarios were swiftly drafted by the new leadership during the past couple of days. These scenarios are responding to the regime’s perceived attempts "to curb the Jordanian Spring by appointing an extremist government and backing down on its previous promises. They are mainly reversing their promises related to the electoral law that meets the aspirations of the public."

The new scenarios underline the importance of intensifying protests and empowering the Brotherhood.  This is to identify with the calls of the provinces that are criticizing the royal family and holding it responsible for impeding reform.

According to a document issued by the Muslim Brotherhood that was circulated within its administrative ranks, the scenarios are intended to "discomfort the regime and force it to exert great efforts toward reform."

The document, a copy of which was obtained by Al-Hayat, stated that the Brotherhood discussed the possibility of "the situation heading toward chaos, instability and even collapse."

It included a number of factors that would make the aforementioned scenario feasible. Principally, the regime continues to be confused and incapable of offering real reforms amid growing tensions and public anger, while the officials continue to fail in properly addressing the latter. Most importantly, Jordan's economy has been hit by a great budget deficit, high debt, rising inflation, and failure in increasing revenue.

The document confirms that such a scenario "cannot be put to rest if political stalemate, economic crisis and public anger continue in Jordan.

According to leaked information from behind the closed doors of the Muslim Brotherhood, the new leadership is strongly convinced of the importance of coordinating with the tribes and national independent figures to create a unifying framework that includes all segments of society.  The aim behind this coordination is to intensify protests and create a lobby to pressure the palace to implement the required reforms.

An even more dangerous idea is to prompt some leading figures, such as the Brotherhood’s most controversial leading figure Zaki Bani-Arshid, to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections.  This step will be adopted if the regime resorts to the one-man-one-vote system or settles on the election bill that has already been sent by Al-Khasawneh's government to parliament for approval.

In the same context, political circles told Al-Hayat that in the previous stage, a wing within the ruling power successfully prevented an electoral law that would make it feasible for the Brotherhood to gain the majority of parliamentary seats. This move reflected the Islamic movement's electoral success in the parliaments of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Kuwait.

In an interview with Al-Hayat from his house in Amman, Deputy Controller General Bani-Arshid said, "It appears that the regime does not want to carry out real reforms." He added, "the situation is heading towards an impasse, and what worries me the most is reaching a political dead end... At this stage we can discuss the rise of a new wave of public reaction. This will be a real challenge to the Brotherhood."

Last Chance

Bani-Arshid believes that it is time "for the Muslim Brotherhood to call on its supporters to carry out mass demonstrations."  He said, "Everyone should wait in anticipation. If the political officials only comprehend high-toned rhetoric, then we do not promise to adopt such approach."

The leading Islamist figure goes on to say that "the regime has only two more chances to implement real reform."

Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood's participation in the upcoming elections, Bani-Arshid said, "No one in the Islamic movement will accept to uselessly participate in the elections. They will also not take part if the electoral law is not amended from within."

In this regard, Kazim Ayish, the Brotherhood’s independent leading figure, says that "intensifying protests will depend on whether or not the government commits further errors."

Former Muslim Brotherhood inspector Salim al-Falahat supports boycotting the elections if the government does not fully implement the publicly-demanded reforms. Its principal demand is for the public, and not the King, to decide on the parliament’s composition.

Al-Falahat, who is affiliated with the Al-Hama'im movement and who had lost his post as the general controller in past elections, said that "the disputes over a number of general issues within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood have ended after the regime showed that it is not willing to carry out reform."

He also said, "The Brotherhood will face the upcoming challenges united, especially since the regime is betting on the situations in the Arab and international arenas.  The regime's expectations will not last in the face of the Jordanian public and its movement."

Writer and political analyst Ibrahim Gharaybeh predicted that the future relationship between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood "will be prone to clashes with the presence of a conservative government and a conservative Muslim Brotherhood leadership."

He added, "Even though the new Brotherhood's leadership is extreme, it is still ready to cooperate with the government if they sense that the authorities desire to." Gharaybeh says that the government during this stage "does not want the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in the political process unless it can guarantee that the group will achieve modest results in the upcoming elections."

He noted that since January 2011 Jordan has been witnessing demonstrations and protests calling on the government to implement political and economic reforms and adopt measures to fight corruption.  

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Found in: political reform in jordan, parliamentary elections, muslim brotherhood, muslim, king abdullah ii, islamist movement in jordan, islamist, hawks, doves, al-tafilah
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