Jordan's New Prime Minister Asks Islamists to Join Elections

Jordan’s new prime minister urged the Muslim Brotherhood to reverse its pledge to boycott the coming parliamentary elections but simultaneously rejected amending the electoral law, a key demand of the Islamist group. Tamer al-Samadi reports.  

al-monitor Jordan's new Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour speaks to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony for the new cabinet at the Royal Palace in Amman, Oct. 11, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

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jordanian election law

Oct 12, 2012

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has expressed hope that the Muslim Brotherhood and its party, the Islamic Action Front [IAF], would reverse their decision to boycott the parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year “as soon as possible.”

Standing before a crowd of citizens and journalists in front of his house in the city of Salt, near Amman, yesterday [Oct. 11], Ensour told Al-Hayat that “holding the elections without the Islamists will harm our democratic process.”

He said that “the presence [of the Muslim Brotherhood] in the political process will give flavor and strength to the next parliament,” noting that “Jordan needs them as much as they need it.”

In interesting remarks, Ensour said that [the continuation of street protests] “may lead to unpredictable consequences.” He stressed that real reform is made “through the ballot box, not by carrying banners.”

“The state wants to move forward with real reform, as do the Islamists, but they want to achieve this reform at a faster pace. We believe that this pace is less secure and stable, and more risky,” he added.

Ensour said: “The Muslim Brothers are not intruders  to the nation. They are an essential component [of the Jordanian social fabric]. We would [only] conflict with them if we feel that their decision is not [purely] Jordanian. We have been companions over the past decades, and we hope that they would take an immediate decision to take part [in the elections].”

On the possibility of amending the electoral law (the one-man, one-vote system) as demanded by the Islamic opposition — the leading political component in the country — Ensour said that the law “has passed through all the [necessary] constitutional stages, and there is no intention to change or amend it. There is also no intention to impose a state of emergency in order to modify it, as it is too late and there is no time for that.”

There have been recent analyses and calls by politicians to declare a state of emergency for a very short period to break the “political impasse” and reach an agreement with the Islamists, which would ensure the amendment of the [electoral] law as a temporary law.

Ensour confirmed that he was a staunch opponent of the electoral law and voted against it in the last parliament.

However, he called on “everyone to register for the elections since the law is now in effect, after the parliamentary minorities — “which he used to represent — “acquiesced to the opinion of the majority, which endorsed [the electoral law] in its current form.”

Before becoming prime minster, Ensour had expressed his “firm” rejection of the law according to which the elections will be held. He has repeatedly announced the need for all parties to take part in the elections, and even called for postponing them “if the state fails to convince all segments of society to participate in them.”

Ensour said that the biggest challenge to his government will be “to hold fair elections, which would regain the trust of the people who no longer believe in the parliament due to previous experiences [and elections] which have been proven to be unfair.”

He pointed out that “the new government has strict instructions against tampering with the elections by any party.”

A few hours before the closure of the electoral registration, Ensour called on the Jordanians to register their names on electoral lists and head to the polls on schedule.

He said that the coming period must be filled with “stability, tranquility and national consensus,” adding that “we must achieve safety in order to overcome the current stage, in a strong and dear homeland.”

Ensour’s remarks to Al-Hayat coincided with the first formal meeting he held with IAF leaders to persuade them against boycotting the elections.

Ensour met yesterday in the Senate with a Muslim Brotherhood delegation led by Sheikh Hamza Mansour. Mansour submitted a written petition stating the group's insistence on amending the electoral law. The Brotherhood’s “cautious” welcome of the decision to appoint Ensour [as prime minister] soon turned into an outright attack.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdullah Farajallah, who was at the meeting, said that “Ensour does not possess a real will to accomplish reform.”

Farajallah told Al-Hayat that [Ensour] has confirmed his inability to change the law. He added, “we demanded what he [himself] had demanded in parliament, and the current law does not reflect his will?.”

Al-Hayat learned that Ensour offered the Brotherhood a new offer at the meeting. According to the offer, the electoral registration period would be extended for a third time, while ensuring the fairness of the registration [process] and the election. The offer was rejected by the Brotherhood.

Politicians interviewed by Al-Hayat believe that there are several messages behind Ensour’s selection [as prime minster], namely his long political and economic experience and his ability to give the upcoming elections some kind of credibility as a statesmen who is open to the various opposition forces.

According to these politicians, Ensour will not succeed in placating the Brotherhood, who are insistent on [taking to] the streets if the law is not amended.

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