Crisis Deepening, Jordan Seeks Muslim Brotherhood Dialogue

Article Summary
Following unprecedented protests brought about by a planned hike in fuel prices, Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has made his strongest plea yet for the Muslim Brotherhood to engage in dialogue and participate in next year’s elections, Tamer al-Samadi reports.

A recent debate within decision-making institutions revealed a wide difference of opinion between various ruling parties concerning the attitudes and measures to be adopted following the government's decision to raise fuel prices and the violent protests that ensued.

Al-Hayat learned that Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour advanced a new initiative to defuse the crisis and end the "political stalemate" that has been plaguing the kingdom since the outbreak of the reform protests in January 2011.

Jordanian official sources told Al-Hayat that “the widely divergent opinions of the government and influential power centers within the state have reached their peak, following an initiative advanced in the past 48 hours by Ensour, whereby there should be an immediate return to dialogue with the opposition forces, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The sources added that “strong centers of power, including security wings, warned against adopting any new approaches aimed at offering additional concessions for the Muslim Brotherhood concerning the electoral law.”

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The Brotherhood previously announced that it is boycotting the elections in protest against the law. The sources explained that power brokers are still betting on the gradual decline of the momentum of these protests.

Official information obtained by Al-Hayat revealed that Ensour managed in the past few hours to convince the royal court of the need to offer a new initiative that can contain escalating protests in the country through dialogue launched by the government and supported by the king.

Sources close to decision-making institutions explained that the formula for such an initiative was not yet clear.

Meanwhile, the sources predicted the start of the first formal dialogue with Brotherhood leaders and the opposition by midweek and stressed that the prime minister is keen to adhere to this deadline. Next week, large demonstrations, called for by the Brotherhood and the National Front for Reform led by former Prime Minister Ahmad Obeidat, are expected.

Al-Hayat learned that the sudden initiative put forward by Ensour came following the release of new recommendations issued by official quarters and local research centers (some funded by the government) during the past two days, warning that the recent unrest in the kingdom threatens stability and civil peace on the eve of parliamentary elections, scheduled for early next year.

According to these recommendations, the "direct criticism of state figures infers the possibility of wide new disorder in the coming weeks."

These recommendations said that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to exploit the disorder caused by the hike in some fuel prices in order to weaken the authorities, adding that the next election "will be worse," if the Islamists succeeded in doing so.

Minister Samih Maaytah, spokesman for the Jordanian government, said: "It is the government's duty to create the appropriate climate for the future elections by opening new channels of communication and dialogue with various parties.

“The prime minister sat down with all of the powers before the formation of the government and tried to reach a certain consensus, but that does not show the need for more negotiations about all of the issues plaguing the country,” he added.

Maaytah stressed the "government's seriousness in studying the available options to calm the atmosphere and that reaching new understandings with the opposition and the Brotherhood should be done on a constitutional and legal basis.”

Zaki Bani Arshid, deputy comptroller general of the Brotherhood group denied the existence of any new contacts with the government.

He told Al-Hayat: "We welcome any political initiative and serious endeavor to rescue Jordan from this crisis, but if such endeavors are aimed at stopping Friday demonstrations, then this is a flagrant and shameful step that cannot solve the crisis that the country is going through."

Moreover, the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Brotherhood group, called yesterday for an end to what it called "statements made by some officials to promote thuggery."

This demand came after a Jordanian official directly accused the Brotherhood of "seeking civil war in Jordan."

Fawaz Irsheidat, governor of the city of Aqaba (in the south of the country), abruptly said the day before yesterday [Nov. 24] that the Brotherhood was planning to drag the country into civil war.

"The Brothers are deceitful and seek to exploit the [protests] in order to achieve what happened in Egypt and Tunisia," he said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General of the State Security Military Court charged three members of the [Brotherhood] with "incitement against the regime," according to a judicial source.

"The prosecutor of the State Security Court charged three members of the Islamic Action Front, including a member of the Shura Council of the party, Imad Abu Hatab, with incitement against the regime," the source said.

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