Jordan’s king moves toward banning Muslim Brotherhood

Lower house of parliament approves a bill barring parties established on a ‘religious basis’

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Jordan's King Abdullah (left), pictured with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on a visit to Ramallah in November, 2011. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Jordan's King Abdullah (left), pictured with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on a visit to Ramallah in November, 2011. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

With the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated parties making political gains in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, King Abdullah is moving to thwart a similar process in Jordan.

The lower house of Jordan’s parliament has ratified a proposed amendment to the political parties law, banning the establishment of political parties on “a religious basis.” From here the law goes to the Senate (upper house), which is appointed by Abdullah. If passed, the law will disqualify Jordan’s largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front.

The bill’s initiator, Mamdouh Al-Abadi, told the independent Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm Tuesday that numerous Middle East countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco forbid parties to have Islamic titles while still allowing them to include religious values.

But the Freedom and Justice Party condemned the draft law Tuesday, arguing that it “clashed with democratic principles and contradicted a number of constitutional clauses.”

Abdullah has been pushing a process of political reform in Jordan and attempting to calm the popular unrest which has simmered in the kingdom for over a year, influenced by calls for democracy in neighboring countries. The main thrust of the king’s reform addresses election and political party laws, which the opposition argues tip results in favor of tribal loyalism at the expense of democratic representation.

On Saturday, the Islamic Action Front’s legislative body, the Shura Council, issued a harsh statement condemning the proposed law as a “shock” to Jordanians. The party indicated it may stop cooperating with the king on his reform initiative if the bill goes forward.

“[We] adamantly refuse to take part in such a ridiculous political process as false witnesses by overriding the will of the Jordanian people,” read the statement.

Hamza Mansour, leader of the Islamic Action Front, was noncommittal Tuesday about whether his party would run in the upcoming elections, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported.

Quoting senior sources in the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordanian political commentator Hadeel Ghabboun argued that the draft law dealt a death blow to the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in Jordanian mainstream politics in the near future.

“The draft law… returns the political crisis between the Brotherhood and decision makers to square one,” wrote Ghabboun in the independent Jordanian daily Al-Ghad.

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