The Arab press is abuzz with coverage of this week’s parliamentary elections in neighboring Jordan, set to take place Wednesday, where analysts are predicting lower than expected voter turnout due to widely held fears of deepening the instability of King Abdallah II’s regime.
According to the London-based daily Al-Hayat in its cover story, “Jordan: ‘Popular reluctance’ the official option and ‘failure’ for the Brotherhood on the eve of elections,” indifference is the word that sums up the mood on the Jordanian street. The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, which is believed to be the largest political group in the country, is poised to suffer a colossal defeat in the wake of its calls a few months ago for its supporters to boycott elections altogether.
Fearing a notable loss of influence in the Jordanian parliament, Brotherhood members have allegedly been scrambling the streets of Amman in recent days, urging Jordanians from all walks of life to head to the polls to vote for them.
Prominent political analyst Fahd Khaitan went so far as to say that “the scene now confirms that there are those who do not trust the political system of the state or the opposition [the Muslim Brotherhood] as a result of fear for the stability of the country.” Furthermore, the feeling that the election results will not affect day-to-day life for the majority of Jordanians is becoming more and more pervasive.
That’s not hard to imagine considering the number of scandals that have erupted this election season over candidates bribing people with cash for their votes. The Doha-based media network Al-Jazeera reports that 12 candidates running for office have already been caught offering people as much as 10 dinars (15 dollars) for their votes. In poverty-stricken Jordan, which is suffering from rising prices for nearly all basic services, 10 dinars may be all a person needs to change his/her decision. The article does not state whether candidates caught issuing bribes have been disqualified from the election.
A full analysis of the election in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi notes that all bribes aside, there is little chance the next parliament will look drastically different from the current one. The “primary force in the new parliament will be the centrist parties that gravitate toward tribal bureaucracy with representation limited, as usual, for Jordanians of Palestinian origin.”
Some people might say the lack of Palestinian representation in the Jordanian Parliament is ironic considering how much Jordanian politicians are discussing Palestinian issues.
In an interview given to the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, Taher al-Masri, the incumbent president of the Jordanian Senate, stressed the degree to which the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples reject a confederation between Jordan and the West Bank before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“The confederation idea is not on any Western or Arab agenda, only on the Israeli one,” al-Masri said. “We will only speak about a confederacy after a Palestinian state is given full UN member status and the Palestinian people can decide their destiny and future. Only then will the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples be able to choose the form of their relationship.”
Arab paper covers Likud’s ‘absence of a platform’
Arab newspapers are also providing a great deal of coverage of tomorrow’s elections in Israel, with particular emphasis on how the ruling Likud party will likely remain in power despite not publishing an official political platform.
An article in the London-based Al-Hayat entitled “Likud running without a political platform” notes the irony that Israelis will head to the polls “without having any idea of [the Likud's] position on any topic, such as the political process with the Palestinians, security, or economic and social issues.”
The article states that attempts were made by the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties to unveil a joint platform, but no agreement was reached.
An unnamed source told Al-Hayat that during discussions on the status of a joint platform, differences began to emerge on security and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preferred “not to get involved in the Palestinian issue relating to his speech at Bar-Ilan University, where he agreed to a two-state solution.”
Al-Jazeera, however, is running a very different report, claiming that Netanyahu and his Likud-Beytenu list is “very clear about their right-wing ideology. . . Netanyahu and Yisrael Beyteinu chair Avigdor Liberman have come out publicly as fully rejecting ‘any kind of Palestinian entity at this stage.’”