Tag Archive: Muslim Brotherhood


Author Osama Al Sharif

April 6, 2016

Two incidents in March have heightened tensions between Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Group (MBG) and the government to the point of raising speculation about the future of the 70-year-old Islamist movement.

In the first incident, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the MBG’s political arm, received notice March 13 from the governor of Aqaba ordering the closure of its office in that port city to comply with a court order. The closure was based on a complaint by the Muslim Brotherhood Society (MBS), an offshoot founded last year by disaffected MBG members, regarding a legal dispute over ownership of the property. It is the first time the IAF has been involved in a dispute between the MBG and the MBS.

Following the MBS’ registration in March 2015, the government asserted that the MBG lacked legal registration. It was therefore prevented from holding public rallies and other events. The MBG insisted that it has had a known legal presence since its establishment in the 1940s. In the second incident, on March 31, the governor of Amman informed MBG officials that because their group was not officially registered, they were prohibited from holding internal elections to select Shura Council members and a general overseer.

It remains unclear whether the government is moving closer to banning the MBG or whether it is forcing it to limit its activities to the IAF, which has been officially registered as a political party since 1992. The government’s actions follow parliament’s adoption in March of a new election law, which all Islamist parties in the kingdom had welcomed. The IAF boycotted the 2013 local elections to protest the one-person, one-vote electoral system, which had been in place for decades and has been removed in the new law. Under the old law, voters could only cast their ballot for a single candidate, even if there were multiple parliamentary seats available in their district. Now a voter can cast a number of votes equal to the number of available seats in his district.

Khaled al-Kalaldeh, Jordan’s minister of political development, denies that the government is considering banning the MBG. He told Al-Monitor, “The government is dealing with this issue with restraint knowing the weight of the group and its party on the popular political scene.” Kalaldeh admitted, however, that there might be pressure from certain political centers inside the government that want a confrontation in light of recent divisions within the Islamist movement.

He also emphasized that forbidding the MBG to hold internal elections is based on the legal complaint made by the registered MBS, which has claimed that the MBG is illegally using its name. “The fact is that the [MBG] is not a legal entity, and this has nothing to do with any government position,” Kalaldeh asserted.

The MBG has been struggling with internal divisions for years. In 2013, a group of moderate members calling for bold reforms launched what became the Zamzam Initiative. They opposed the movement’s decision to boycott elections and wanted the MBG to sever its historical ties to the main group in Egypt. In addition, they called on the MBG to focus on national issues and to act as an opposition in the political system. Having been repeatedly rebuffed by the hawkish leadership of the MBG, the members behind Zamzam, who were later expelled from the MBG, decided to form their own movement. On March 26, the Zamzam leadership unveiled plans to establish their own political party to contest legislative elections expected to be held later this year.

Irhail al-Gharaibeh, general coordinator for the Zamzam Initiative, told Al-Monitor that he expects the government to dissolve the MBG, because it is not registered in Jordan, and defended the decision to prevent the group from holding internal elections. “It has no legal structure, and if the group insists on holding elections, then the authorities must intervene and take action,” Gharaibeh said.

According to Gharaibeh, the divisions within the MBG are long-standing, but they resurfaced following the events of the Arab Spring. “We wanted to have flexibility in political action and to avoid the mistakes of the past,” he said. “But the conservatives rejected our efforts, and we as reformers had to take action through what we call conciliatory democracy.”

Gharaibeh warned that the Islamist movement in Jordan could collapse if it fails to adapt and that it should break from its ideological trenches and accept competition based on merit rather than tribe. He reiterated the decision by the Zamzam Initiative to contest future elections as a moderate Islamist party.

Ali Abu al-Sukkar, former chairman of the MBG’s Shura Council, dismissed speculation that the government’s recent decisions might eventually lead to banning the group. “Practically and historically, we had a good working relationship with governments, and we were never extreme in our policies,” he told Al-Monitor.

Abu al-Sukkar described the present relationship as tepid, but said it would never result in a total break. “The rise of the Islamist movement in the region has raised fears here, and the presence of Daesh [the Islamic State] has created a fear of Islamist parties,” he said. Abu al-Sukkar also said the MBG will hold its internal elections before the end of this month, regardless of the government’s position.

Meanwhile, the MBS has announced its intention to participate in this year’s parliamentary elections, but has not yet filed for a political party license. On April 3, its Shura Council adopted a unanimous decision to end years of political boycott, which began with the 2013 IAF election boycott.

The fragmentation of the Islamist movement is already having an effect on society. On March 30, the Teachers Association, the largest professional union in Jordan, held general elections and the results clearly revealed the MBGs waning popularity. The group’s candidates lost ground to independents, who won 56% of the seats on the union’s central committee.

These results will be used by MBG critics to point to its exaggerated influence on the Jordanian electorate. The real test, however, will be how the IAF performs in legislative elections in competition against the two new planned Islamist parties. Meanwhile, as the government’s legal siege against the MBG continues, the group’s big showdown, its internal elections, awaits the end of this month.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/muslim-brotherhood-group-jordan-government-tension.html.

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Monday, 31 August 2015

Nine more members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Egypt, Anadolu has reported. In the same session, four other members of the movement were each sent to prison for four years.

Those convicted by the Criminal Court in Ismailiyah included a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Office, Mohamed Taha Wahdan, and the local spokesman for the movement in the city, Ali Abdullah, in addition to the main Brotherhood official in the governorate, Sabry Khalafallah.

All were arrested following the dispersal of a pro-democracy demonstration in December 2013. They were accused of attempting to undermine Egypt’s security, public safety, taking part in an illegal demonstration and being affiliated with Egypt’s largest Islamic movement.

A source in Ismailiyah added that the Appeal Court had released a number of pro-Brotherhood individuals on bail.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20736-more-brotherhood-members-get-life-sentences.

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Muslim Brotherhood has praised the invitation by the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt to form a revolutionary front to stand against the military coup and end military rule. The movement regards this step as a point in the socialists’ favor and called for its immediate implementation with the formation of the new front before the protests planned to commemorate the anniversary of the massacres in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Al-Nahda Squares two years ago.

“Let us align together and unite the revolutionaries against the coup,” urged Brotherhood official Gamal Heshmat.”We hope that a revolutionary front is formed before 14 August in order to take advantage of the popular anger and overthrow the military rule as soon as possible, as well as end the political dispute amongst the revolutionaries.”

In a telephone interview with Rassd news network, Heshmat added that the invitation was a result of the long-standing communication channel between the Brotherhood and other revolutionary forces in an effort to unite the opposition to the Sisi government. “We are now seeing a positive change and step in the context of regaining the benefits of the January Revolution, starting with freedom,” he insisted. “We hope we continue to communicate and that the respectable parties reunite because there is only one solution: uniting our ranks just as we did during the 2011 uprising.”

The Revolutionary Socialists movement had called on all the revolutionary forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to form a new front aiming to overthrow the military rule in a statement it issued under the heading, “Once again on terrorism and national alignment”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20151-brotherhood-agrees-to-form-a-revolutionary-front-with-socialists.

March 16, 2015

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has formally split after 70 years — a breakup blamed on long-running ideological disputes, but also on a government attempt to further weaken what was once the country’s main opposition group.

The split deals a new blow to the region-wide Brotherhood movement, which has been outlawed as a terror group by close Jordan allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Jordan, some warned that the government’s apparent divide-and-control policy could backfire by pushing more Brotherhood supporters into the ranks of extremists like the Islamic State group, seen as the main threat to the country’s stability.

The new, officially licensed Brotherhood offshoot defines itself as a strictly Jordanian group, saying it cut ties with the regional movement to avoid being branded as militant. “We were concerned that we would be considered as a terrorist organization if we continued to be a branch of an organization branded as a terrorist group,” the group’s leader, Abdel-Majid Thnaibat, told The Associated Press.

The larger Brotherhood faction, still loyal to the regional movement, alleged the government engineered the division to weaken the group. “This is a coup sponsored by the regime,” spokesman Murad Adaileh told the AP.

Jordan’s government has declined to address the allegation. The split was formalized earlier this month when the government licensed Thnaibat’s breakaway faction, and the core movement promptly expelled the defectors.

The status of the second faction now remains unclear. A government official said that while Thnaibat’s group registered with the authorities, the other faction “did not correct” its status, suggesting it is legally vulnerable. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters.

It’s not clear if Jordan’s authorities eventually will outlaw the original movement, which is deeply rooted in Jordanian society through its social outreach and welfare system. There have been some signs of a crackdown in recent months, including the arrests of about two dozen activists and the sentencing of the group’s No. 2 — Zaki Bani Ersheid — to 18 month in prison for criticizing the Emirates.

The problems have put the Brotherhood in Jordan at its lowest point in years. It has no representation in parliament because of self-imposed election boycotts and is losing some of its young to extremist groups.

“The Brotherhood, by relative standards, is fairly innocuous, it’s not a significant threat to the kingdom,” said David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank. “Many are asking what (is the) utility of kicking the Brotherhood when it is down.”

The division was preceded by long-running ideological disagreements between “doves” and “hawks,” exacerbated by 2007 Gaza takeover of the Islamic militant Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.

The doves emphasize their Jordanian identity, want to keep Hamas at arm’s length, appear more willing to play by the restrictive rules set by the monarchy and want to focus on “dawa,” or preaching. The hawks criticize government policies more openly, particularly Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, embrace Hamas and see the Brotherhood as a transnational movement.

Tribal identities also appear to play a role, as Thnaibat and some of his key supporters are members of Jordan’s Bedouin tribes, while some of the leading hawks are descendants of Palestinian refugees.

For years, the Brotherhood was Jordan’s largest and most cohesive opposition group, seeking political reform, but stopping short of seeking the ouster of the king. With the hawks in charge, friction between the Brotherhood and the government has grown in recent years.

At the same time, the Jordanian Brotherhood has been weakened by regional developments in recent years, including the growing ideological competition from Islamic extremists following the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

Some warn the government crackdown could radicalize Brotherhood supporters and help swell the ranks of the Islamic State group. Jordan has taken on a high-profile role in a U.S.-led military coalition that carries out airstrikes against the militants, after they burned a captive Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has framed the battle as an ideological fight to the finish.

Others say the Brotherhood is responsible for losing supporters. “The Muslim Brotherhood failed to deal with the young generation and to lead them in the right direction,” said Mahmoud al-Kharabseh, a pro-government legislator.

Analyst Labib Kamhawi said the Brotherhood’s troubles offered an opportunity for the government to encourage the split. “Jordan is simply trying to trim the Brotherhood in power and size, to be able to manage it easily,” he said.

It’s not clear how the rival factions will now deal with each other, and whether court battles over the Brotherhood brand and the movement’s properties, such as hospitals and real estate, are looming.

Adaileh alleged that trying to entangle the Brotherhood in legal battles is part of the government’s alleged strategy of weakening the movement. Thnaibat left open the possibility that his group will participate in future elections after the Brotherhood boycotted the last two rounds over claims the system favored tribal candidates. He also said his group would try to persuade the rank and file to join them.

“We are going to contact our Brothers in the provinces to explain to them why a Brother shouldn’t stay in an illegal organization,” he said.

Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank.

by JT

Feb 15, 2015

AMMAN –– Deputy overall leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Zaki Bani Rsheid was on Sunday sentenced to one and a half years in prison on charges of harming Jordan’s ties with a friendly state.

The sentence was handed to Bani Rsheid by the State Security Court under the 2014 amended Anti-Terror Law, a member of the Islamic movement told The Jordan Times.

The top Islamist leader was arrested in late November of last year in response to a critical statement posted on Facebook accusing the United Arab Emirates of promoting “Zionist” foreign policies and indirectly sponsoring “extremism” in the region.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/muslim-brotherhood-leader-sentenced-to-15-years-in-jail.

Fri Dec 26, 2014

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement says it will not negotiate with military-backed rulers in the country and will continue to organize its peaceful anti-government demonstrations, Press TV reports.

The outlawed Egyptian group made the remarks in a statement published on its official website.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would not adhere to regional and international efforts aimed at finding a compromise until those responsible for the deaths of revolutionaries were brought to justice.

It added that the Brotherhood and its supporters would defeat what it called domestic and international sponsors of the military coup last year, referencing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

This came a day after supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi held anti-government protests in Cairo and the city of Fayoum.

Similar protests have been held across the country in recent months.

Egypt has witnessed regular protest rallies since the July 2013 ouster of Morsi, who was the country’s first president democratically elected after the overthrow of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

According to rights groups, the army’s crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrations has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

Morsi and his aides are currently on trial in several cases and could face the death penalty if convicted.  They are standing trial for what the military-backed court calls the destabilization of Egypt through collaborating with such groups as Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and Lebanese movement Hezbollah and leaking confidential information to foreign countries.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/391855.html.

Friday 7 October 2011

CAIRO: Egypt’s leading liberal party Wafd has scrapped an electoral alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest political force, because it wants to field more candidates than the tie-up would have allowed, said a senior Wafd official.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Brotherhood’s political wing, and Wafd led an alliance of 34 parties from across the political spectrum that planned to coordinate on lists of candidates for the first elections since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from office in a popular uprising.

“The party’s higher committee unanimously decided to contest elections in a separate list and member parties of the alliance should choose to join either (the FJP or Wafd) lists,” Essam Sheha, member of Wafd’s higher committee, told Reuters.

Egyptian politics were dominated for decades by Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party which was widely accused of ballot stuffing, vote buying and intimidation.

The well-organized Brotherhood was banned from formal politics but fielded candidates as independents.

Fourteen Liberal and Leftist groups have formed a coalition called the “Egyptian Bloc” calling for a civil state in which the principles of Shariah are the main source of legislation.

Sheha denied that the decision to quit the electoral alliance was based on an ideological dispute. “We withdrew from the electoral alliance because we had a lot of candidates and the available places in the list weren’t enough,” he said.

Cooperation with the Brotherhood would continue in other areas, he said, and a meeting of the alliance would take place on Saturday.

Egypt’s military ruler, meanwhile, said the country is going through a critical period, particularly on the security and economic fronts, and urges unity to achieve a democratic state under civilian rule.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said in a televised speech Thursday disagreements and mistrust have plagued the period following the uprising that forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down in February.

Source: Arab News.

Link: http://www.arabnews.com/node/393720.

Sat Aug 9, 2014

An Egyptian court has dissolved the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets liquidated.

In its ruling on Saturday, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered “the dissolution of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) because it broke the law regarding political parties.”

According to the state-run Middle East News Agency, the decision is final and not open to appeal.

The measure against the FJP comes after a recommendation by the court’s advisory panel that noted the party’s leaders had already been accused, and in some cases convicted of murder and inciting violence.

Moreover, the court decision is part of a wider crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the movement.

Since the ouster of former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, on July 3 last year, Egypt has been the scene of anti-government protests with continuous clashes between security forces and Morsi’s supporters.

Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, was toppled in a military coup led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s current president and then army commander.

Following Morsi’s ouster, Sisi announced his candidacy for the nation’s presidency and was sworn in as president after winning an election in which less than 50 percent of eligible voters participated.

Sisi is accused of leading the suppression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters as hundreds of them have been killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has left over 1,400 people dead and 22,000 others arrested.

At least 200 people have also been sentenced to death in mass trials, including Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, although none of the sentences has been carried out so far.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/08/09/374650/egypt-court-dissolves-brotherhood-party-wing/.

José Ciro Martínez

July 13, 2014

AMMAN, Jordan — On July 6, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Jordan, held elections for its Shura Council. The recent vote for the party’s main legislative body received wide coverage, a product of the well-known disagreements between self-described “hawks” and “doves” within the IAF. Less newsworthy but potentially more significant was a July 2 news conference announcing the party’s economic blueprint for Jordan, which Al-Monitor attended. It was the most extensive policy proposal put forward by the Ikhwan since the early 1990s.

Prepared over a two-year period, the plan is part of a broader overhaul of the IAF’s image. Although full details will be released before the next parliamentary elections as part of an overarching policy document titled “The Jordan of Tomorrow,” the timing of the announcement offers some insight into the IAF’s current predicament.

Since Oct. 5, 2013, the IAF has faced what may well be its most serious challenge since its founding. The Zamzam Initiative launched by leading moderate Muslim Brotherhood figures disenchanted with the IAF has raised the specter of a damaging internal rift. Zamzam disagrees with the IAF’s confrontational stance with the regime and eschews its traditional focus on political reforms and regional affairs. In contrast, it promotes a more moderate, conciliatory approach, including non-controversial institutional reforms and inclusive national dialogue.

Meanwhile, sources within the IAF told Al-Monitor their belief that the regime was backing Zamzam to perpetuate discord within the Muslim Brotherhood, as part of a broader campaign to discredit the organizations since the military coup in Egypt in July 2013.

Calls for reform within the IAF have only increased since three of Zamzam’s leading members were expelled in late March. Just last month, an unsanctioned summit attended by over a hundred dissenting members in the northern city of Irbid declared a “popular uprising” against the IAF’s leaders. Their main demands included a change to the current leadership through a consensus election and the exclusion of “elements of aggravation,” within the party.

In light of brewing internal divisions, the economic strategy is the IAF’s newest attempt to foster party unity while bolstering popular support. In the press conference announcing the proposal, IAF Secretary-General Hamza Mansour said, “This strategy is not specifically for the Islamic Action Front, … the strategy is for the country.”

The move to policy comes after a time in which the IAF’s major figures have toned down their anti-government rhetoric and minimized their public appearances. Following the Brotherhood’s surprising victory in elections for the Jordanian Teachers’ Union, there has been wide speculation around the IAF’s political strategy. Its economic blueprint illustrates what may become the party’s new approach, a tedious but necessary focus on public policy issues.

At the IAF news conference, Mansour hinted at this change of strategy, “The party has dealt with economic issues in the past, through electoral statements and the press, but this is the first time we treat the problem by way of a systematic analysis.” The proposal is not about scoring political points but, “to diagnose reality and offer recommendations.” Copies of the strategy have been sent to the Royal Court, the prime minister and the parliament and will soon be placed on the IAF’s website.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Suleiman al-Shiyab, head of the IAF’s economic team, worked through the econometric analysis in the soon-to-be-released policy document. He delineated the often neglected sectors that were put under the microscope: fertilizers, garments, pharmaceuticals and the aluminum industry. All 12 of the country’s governorates were examined, weaknesses identified, strengths highlighted and opportunities outlined.

Shiyab was careful to stress that the blueprint is bereft of ideology: “The study is scientific: We used official reports released by the government and reputable international organizations,” he said. “Over 81 sectors were examined. Our team included 65 experts from academia, the private sector and former state officials, most of whom do not identify as Islamists.”

Shiyab was careful to stress the IAF’s goals in releasing the report, “The citizenry’s quality of life is decreasing while costs are increasing. The challenges for Jordanians are becoming more difficult with every passing day.” Yet the impetus behind the announcement inevitably emerges: “We are tired of the government claiming that the opposition is just about slogans and scoring political points.” He proudly said, “We are the first political party to release a detailed economic blueprint, now the government and the people can see clearly that we, too, can offer concrete solutions.”

IAF political official Murad Adayleh reiterated the party’s efforts, embodied in the blueprint, “to both clarify the current economic predicament and help solve it,” in an interview with Al-Monitor. Given the government’s tenuous relationship with the opposition, he said he was not surprised that the IAF has received “no real response from the executive branch, positive nor negative.”

For the moment, the government remains tepid in its response. In comments to Al-Monitor, Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad al-Momani, a government spokesman, said, “The IAF’s plan will be sent to concerned ministers and the relevant committees. Their suggestions are very much welcomed.” Momani denied alleged government meddling among the Islamists, “We treat the IAF like any other political party. They are part of the national fabric.” “We will give answers to IAF’s strategy if required,” he said. “We hope this signals a more meaningful engagement in public affairs.”

Does the government prefer an Islamist turn toward economic policy debates? At the moment this remains unclear, although IAF members insisted that they would not abandon their traditional emphasis on political reforms. In comments preceding the news conference, Mansour said, “Economic progress should be preceded or accompanied by real political reforms.”

Close examination of the proposed blueprint, obtained through confidential sources by Al-Monitor, reveals a more complicated picture. The econometric analysis is extensive, as is the detailed examination of the problems that ail the Jordanian economy. The goals are also laudable: comprehensive development, optimal utilization of natural resources and lowering poverty rates.

Less clear are the concrete measures needed to reach these objectives. Beyond increasing economic growth to reduce Jordan’s bulging deficit, specific policy recommendations, especially regarding sensitive budgetary issues, remain sparse.

When pushed on this point, Shiyab said it should come as no surprise. “The blueprint is part of a six-year effort. The next step will be identifying the types of projects that can make our assessment and vision a reality.”

The IAF’s elections for the Shura Council seem to confirm its new approach. Economic issues will be placed front and center. By electing Abdul Mohsen Al-Azzam over previous President Ali Abu Sukkar, the IAF appears to be adopting a more conciliatory tone. Although hawkish in his positions, Azzam is dovish in his vocabulary; his first remarks focused on external threats to Jordan and the need for national unity.

While the message of the Shura Council election has been assessed as directing a “message of peace” toward state organs, the ultimate goal may be to minimize internal party divisions while moving the arena of debate toward the economy.

As Jordanian citizens continue to suffer the consequences of economic mismanagement — decreasing growth, higher inflation and rising inequalities — the IAF appears to believe that this is a debate it can win.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/jordan-iaf-muslim-brotherhood-economic-plan-zamzam.html.

March 31, 2014

Osama Al Sharif

In the first true test of its influence and popularity following last year’s dramatic events in Egypt, Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood celebrated with its March 27 electoral victory the kingdom’s largest professional union in what observers described as a free and fair election. Islamist candidates and their allies won more than 70% of the seats in the 100,000-strong teachers union across the nation. Their opponents — nationalists and leftists — were unable to snatch this important association from the Islamists for the second time in three years.

The results stunned both the government and delighted supporters. Since Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi was toppled by the army, the Jordanian government had worked to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. Although no punitive measures were taken against the movement, which has been active in Jordan since the 1950s, the Islamists were exposed to harsh and arguably sometimes unwarranted attacks by pro-government columnists, who accused the Brotherhood of foreign allegiance and of harboring an authoritarian agenda. The Islamists, in turn, accused the government of waging a campaign to demonize them.

But the movement was shaken by recent regional events, including Saudi Arabia’s decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Its fall in Egypt and banning by a number of Gulf countries, along with the Islamist-led opposition in Syria’s failure to defeat the Damascus regime, have increased the Brotherhood’s isolation in Jordan. While there are no indications that Jordan was about to follow Saudi Arabia in banning the movement, the general perception by the public was that the Brotherhood’s popularity and ability to mobilize the street had been undercut. But last week’s teachers union election shattered that view.

Minister of Political Development Khaled al-Kalaldeh admitted in press interviews that there is now no “parallel to the Islamists” in the political arena. His statements underlined what many observers have always believed: that the Muslim Brotherhood remains the only organized group in Jordan that has genuine influence over the public.

But those who believed that the Islamist movement was weakening had a good argument, too. The Muslim Brotherhood had led public protests when the Arab Spring erupted in 2011. It organized weekly demonstrations and allied itself with nationalist and leftist groups and parties. But its ability to mobilize tens of thousands of Jordanians was tested many times.

In spite of the major political events that swept through Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria, Jordanians remained wary of destabilizing their country. The youth movement was unable to rally Jordanians and today is politically dead. The alliances between the Islamists and others had collapsed almost a year ago, leaving the Muslim Brotherhood the only opposition in the public domain. Although hard-liners were now in control of the movement, it became apparent in the past few months that they chose to reduce their public activities and tone down their anti-government rhetoric.

The Brotherhood’s leadership did not want to antagonize the regime or give it reason to take action against the Islamist movement. When a Jordanian judge was gunned down last month by an Israeli soldier at the Allenby Bridge, thousands of angry Jordanians protested near the Israeli Embassy in west Amman. Islamist participation in that event was deliberately low profile.

It could be that the government had miscalculated in choosing not to interfere, believing that the Islamists had lost their public base and that the teachers union elections could go either way.

But a few days after the polls, the Islamists contested another important election: the contest for the council of the University of Jordan Students Union. Here, the reaction was different. The Islamists complained that their candidates had been subjected to a wave of terror and intimidation and accused “outlaws” of interfering in the voting process.

There were clashes on election day, but the Islamists prevailed there as well, winning over 45% of the votes. In a rare conciliatory message to the government, the Consultative Council of the Muslim Brotherhood issued a March 28 communique praising the state’s position in regard to the free elections of the teachers union.

Such messages between the Islamist movement and the government appear to underline the tense but steady relationship between the two sides. King Abdullah, who has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, has also resisted pressure from within the royal court to take action against the movement. He understands the unique historical rapport between the regime and the Brotherhood, one that has survived for decades.

The question now is whether the Islamist movement ends its boycott of legislative and municipal elections in light of its recent gains. A former moderate overseer of the movement, Abdel Majid Thneibat, had called on the Islamists to end their self-imposed political isolation. There are no upcoming parliamentary elections, but the government has promised to amend a contentious election law this year.

When it participated in past legislative elections, especially between 1990 and 1993, the Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the largest bloc in the Lower House. One of its moderate leaders, Abdel Latiff Arabiyyat, became the speaker for three consecutive terms. He told Al-Monitor in a recent interview that this feat is proof of the popularity of the Islamist movement in Jordan and its moderate course. He added that throughout its history, the movement has allied itself with the Jordanian state, which gave it a “special status” in society.

As the Islamist movement celebrates its recent victories, it is also sending conciliatory messages to the regime. Knowing that it still enjoys popular support might encourage it to contest future legislative elections. The regime, on the other hand, will be thinking hard about its next step. Fear of the Islamist movement has not gone away, but Jordan’s assessment of its role and contribution to the political process is different from that of its neighbors.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-union-elections.html.