Jordan’s Brotherhood Stands Divided Over Election Boycott

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The ranks of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood have become starkly divided over what was once a unanimous decision to boycott the upcoming elections.

The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood confirmed yesterday [Aug. 3] that the decision to boycott local elections, scheduled for the end of this month, was unanimously adopted. Meanwhile, a senior Brotherhood leader affiliated with the "doves" movement, which is close to the Jordanian regime, decided to rebel against the decision and announced his candidacy for the elections in Irbid, the country's second largest city.

Nabil Kofahi, a prominent Brotherhood leader and the son of Sheikh Ahmed Kofahi, one of the group's most eminent historical leaders, said that he made a personal decision to run in elections. He refused to comment on the ramifications of the candidacy and what it has to do with the Brotherhood’s boycott decision. Kofahi, who previously served as head of the Irbid municipality after winning the 1999 elections on the Brotherhood list, added that he tried to distance himself from the candidacy, but he was surprised by “a popular initiative insistently pushing for his participation.”

Kofahi’s violation of the Brotherhood’s decision reveals the Brotherhood's current division between the hawks and the doves, particularly since leaders in the doves launched the Zamzam political initiative. The latter, which respects “the prestige of the state,” is aimed at bringing the group closer to the regime through participation in parliamentary and local elections.

Kofahi may be subject to penalties, including dismissal from the group, after years of membership.

In parallel, the Brotherhood's second-in-command, Zaki Bani Arshid, said, “The Brotherhood’s consultative institutions decided by a majority to boycott local elections, and this decision is irreversible under any circumstances.”

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has refused to propose a new initiative to urge the group to participate in the elections. He told a number of MPs, “It is now too late to launch new initiatives, and the Brotherhood’s situation is no different from the rest of the citizens, and it is their right to participate or abstain.”

The Brotherhood’s boycott of the first parliamentary elections in Jordan following the outbreak of the Arab uprisings resulted in electing a parliament dominated by conservative tribal figures and businessmen.

In another matter, Arshid denied information that members of the executive bureau (a sort of mini-government) had harshly criticized the Brotherhood’s leadership because of its position toward Egypt, and stressed that this information “is incorrect ... an exaggeration designed to pressure us to change the position to boycott elections.”

A few days ago, reports circulated in the Jordanian capital that members of the executive bureau sharply criticized the Brotherhood’s leader, Sheikh Hammam Saeed, and Arshid. This comes following escalated statements the two made against various governmental institutions, while the Brotherhood’s main branch in Egypt and Islamist President Mohammed Morsi were overthrown. This has prompted the Jordanian government to insinuate that the Brotherhood’s violations will be referred to the judiciary.

Experts on the local scene believe that the Egyptian developments have greatly influenced Jordan's opposition. Thus, the source of the movement dried out, limiting the calls for political and economic reform.

Activists on social networking sites indicated that the Brotherhood’s momentum has decreased in the street because of the crisis faced by its main branch. Over the past few days, the group called for several demonstrations against the impending rise of energy prices. Yet the turnout was poor in consideration of Jordanian Islamists' reputation over the past years for their ability to mobilize tens of thousands for demonstrations.

In the same context, active leaders within the Brotherhood revealed that there is a plan to intensify the movement's actions, regain the street and avoid being negatively influenced by the Egyptian crisis. The Brotherhood’s Shura Council, its highest regulatory institution, held an urgent meeting on August 2 to discuss the repercussions of the ousting of the Brotherhood regime in Egypt. Nawaf Obeidat, Shura Council head, said the council “thoroughly examined the Egyptian issue, and agreed that it is necessary to activate the street movement, carry on with the calls for internal reform and not to hold back or fall off.”

For more than two years, Jordan has witnessed peaceful demonstrations organized by Islamists, tribal figures and leftists inspired by Arab Spring uprisings. However, the demonstrators have focused on limiting the powers of King Abdullah II and reforming the government.

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Found in: jordanian brotherhood, zaki bani arshid, jordanian muslim brotherhood, jordanian election law, election boycott, election
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