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‘Old’ Brotherhood advised to partake in next polls as ‘proof of life’

By Khetam Malkawi - Apr 11,2016 - Last updated at Apr 11,2016

AMMAN — It is in the best interests of the “old” Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group to take part in the next parliamentary elections, pundits have said.

In phone interviews with The Jordan Times they said the participation is a “proof of life” as the 70-year-old group and main opposition power for decades is facing an unprecedented threat to its existence.

Up to last week, the MB said that its shura council, which calls the shots in the organisation, was discussing the next move, especially after a new elections law went into effect, and the notorious “one-person, one-vote system” was discarded. 

The council formed ad hoc committees to come up with suggestions upon which it will build its decision.

The group has seen a massive defection movement when hundreds of senior leaders walked out of the organisation and aligned themselves in three new entities that are expected to evolve into political parties and run for the election race, whose date has not been decided yet. One of the splinter groups has registered itself in the name: Muslim Brotherhood Society, claiming that it is the sole legitimate Brotherhood entity in the Kingdom. The mother group was not allowed to conduct its internal elections recently on grounds of its “illegitimacy”. However, it is the political arm of the group, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) party, that is entitled to race for House seats as it is a legally registered party. 

The Islamists refused to take part in the 2010 and 2013 polls citing the “unjust electoral law and vote rigging in 2007”. 

This time, as the Islamist organisation seems in its weakest state, the government does not need to enter negotiations with the MB leaders to convince them to join the parliament’s race, as in the case of the previous elections, according to Samih Maaytah, former state minister for media affairs and political analyst.

Maaytah expects the “Islamic movement” to be “keen on taking part, though it will be a painful decision for its leaders and constituents”.  

He said, authorities are no longer eager to see the old MB as a player in the political field for several reasons, including the decline of the movement’s popularity in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and due to having other factions representing Islamists, including the new society and Zamzam Initiative, formed by former MB leaders as a “national” moderate political movement.

In a move seen as an attempt to adapt to the uncontrollable change in the rules of the game, the mother group has recently modified its by-laws, ending their historic affiliation to Egypt, yet the move did not resonate with defectors or authorities.

For Ibrahim Gharaibeh, a political analyst and author with Brotherhood background, the group’s participation in the elections “is the only way to prove it still exists”.

He expects that MB contenders would not be able to win more than 15 to 20 out of the 130 House seats, noting that their presence in the Lower House would add to the legislative authority’s diversity. In comparison, in the 1989 elections, MB candidates won big, capturing more than a quarter of the 80-seat House back then, and emerging as a strong opposition power, eclipsing other political currents, such as Arab nationalists and leftists.  

Gharaibeh’s view was echoed by political analyst Oraib Rentawi, who maintained that their participation “would benefit both the group and Jordan”.

“I advise them to take part in lists that contain names of national personalities,” to remove the stereotype that the Islamists are not open to others in the society.

Rentawi also noted that the government should not continue to impose restrictions on the movement, as this “would discourage the group’s reformists and promotes extremism within its members”.

“There should be containment from the government side”, Rentawi told The Jordan Times, a view that was opposed by Maaytah, who noted that the government has no interest in containing members of the group and is not keen on their participation.

 

Meanwhile, Murad Adaileh, spokesperson of the IAF said although the participation of any “political component” is in the state’s interest because it adds to the diversity of the political process, the decision of taking part in the upcoming elections is to be discussed further. 

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