Middle East

Simmering anger among Jordan opposition

Muslim Brotherhood protest in Amman (13 July 2012)
Image caption The Muslim Brotherhood's political party says it is held back by Jordan's electoral law

Egypt and Tunisia have become examples of how political Islam continues to gain clout in the wake of the Arab Spring.

In Syria there are many questions about what a post Bashar al-Assad leadership will look like and whether the Muslim Brotherhood will finally find their way to power there.

But in Jordan it is a different story. Despite being the largest and most organised opposition force, here the Muslim Brotherhood struggle to gain any political power.

Their aim is to follow the lead of their parent movement in Egypt.

After 80 years, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are not just a part of mainstream politics. They are the mainstream; Egypt's new president Mohammed Mursi comes from the heart of the movement.

The Brotherhood in Jordan are different. For one, they have never been as harshly persecuted by the system as their Egyptian counterparts.

But they have also never seemed to gain as much political power.

They rally people in the streets in big numbers. But the peaceful demonstrations, as they always describe them, seem to go no further.

Flawed law?

The Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), has been organising the rallies for over a year now.

The demands have been the same since the demonstrations began: political reform, fighting corruption and modifying Jordan's controversial election law.

The Brotherhood claim the law does not allow fair representation.

Hamza Mansour, secretary general of the IAF, insists that they will boycott early parliamentary elections due by the end of the year.

"We will not take part in forged elections. This elections law does exactly that," he said.

"We have agreed on another draft law with the other political powers that gives a fair representation, taking into consideration each constituency's population and geography."

The Brotherhood have a very large support base in some of the constituencies and were planning to field more than one candidate in the hope of more seats in the parliament.

But the election law does not allow them to do so as it only allows one vote per constituency.

Image caption Jordan's Brotherhood are less persecuted and less powerful than their Egyptian counterparts have been

Their opponents say the Muslim Brotherhood want a law that serves them and only them.

But this is not Jordan's only problem and the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only strand of opposition here.


Anger on the street led to what many Jordanians here called "the unthinkable".

Oday Abu Issa is a 19-year-old Jordanian student who describes himself as part of a popular youth opposition movement.

He was jailed for two months after burning a poster of King Abdullah last January.

This was the first incident of its kind and Oday says he wanted to send a message to the leadership.

"They continue to marginalise the opposition forces," he says.

"They don't recognise any opposition movement except the Islamists. This will provoke even more anger in the street.

"Opposition is not just the Islamists. We have nationalist, leftist, popular and youth movements, and they need to talk to all of us."

But unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the youth movements in Jordan have so far not been able to make a real difference.

They are still not popular or relevant enough on the Jordanian street.

"The problem is we still don't have a clear plan and a comprehensive programme," Oday says.

"There are many of us and we come from different backgrounds. We need a clear roadmap to unite us."

Tribal anger

The deteriorating economy and the diminishing role of the public sector have affected other groups of Jordanian society, including the tribes, who have always been known for their allegiance to the King and the government.

Jumana Ghneimat is editor-in-chief of the Jordanian Ghad newspaper. She says the anger among the tribes is a dangerous development.

"The tribes feel abandoned.

"They have long depended on a support system that has been provided to them by the King and the government and now they are asked to depend on themselves without the proper means to do so."

She goes on: "It started for economic reasons but now, they too are asking for political change.

"I think that the leadership's problems with the tribes are much more dangerous than its political brawls with the Muslim Brotherhood."

The government meanwhile has said that it will not change the election law and that it is up to the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of the opposition to take part in the political process.

But this does not satisfy an already very frustrated public, who see no end in sight for their economic problems.

Jordan's limited resources are being stretched still further with the growing number of Syrian refugees entering the country every day.

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