Islamists now control Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia and are contesting Syria. Jordan is fairly small by comparison, but it’s still part of the package as the Muslim Brotherhood would like to recreate a Greater Syria, combining Egypt and Syria, and adding Jordan to the package to crush Israel and then Lebanon, which has far too many Christians and Shiites in it for their liking.
But so far the Jordanian Arab Spring hasn’t taken off and the Muslim Brotherhood’s big show of force on Friday fizzled with a turnout of only 7,000 when the Brotherhood was predicting 50,000.
Thousands of members of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood have taken to the streets to reinforce the group’s boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The boycott is a blow to King Abdullah II, who has made reforms the centerpiece of his campaign to stave off an Arab Spring uprising in his country.
Brotherhood’s leader Hammam Saeed spoke to about 7,000 followers Friday in the capital, Amman, insisting on the boycott of the elections, which are expected at the end of this year or early in 2013.
Though the rally was the group’s largest in the past year of weekly street protests demanding reforms in Jordan, Abdullah remains firmly in control of the country.
The opposition is limited to fractured groups led by the Brotherhood but has stayed mostly loyal to the king.
Nope, it’s not a blow. No matter how the media spins it. An opposition that can only put 7,000 people into the street in a country of 6 million is not a threat to Abdullah and Abdullah has outfoxed the Brotherhood by calling for early elections.
The Brotherhood’s “Friday to Rescue the Nation” rally failed, no matter how much the media may spin it, that doesn’t mean Jordan is immune from a takeover, but the takeover has been postponed at the very least.
There are a number of big challenges for the Brotherhood in Jordan. The economic situation isn’t as bad in Jordan as it was in Egypt and the Qatari backers of the revolts in Libya, Syria and Egypt don’t seem nearly as keen to depose a fellow monarch. Without Qatari money and Al Jazeera propaganda, a Muslim Brotherhood takeover will have an uphill battle.
But there’s an even bigger problem. The Brotherhood’s base of support comes from Gaza, not from Jordan. The split of the Palestine Mandate has created two tiers in Jordan, Jordanian Palestinians and Israeli Palestinian Refugees from territory that Jordan annexed but then lost to Israel. These two types of Palestinians have a different legal status and King Abdullah has cleverly split the difference.
The Brotherhood and a coalition of tribal and other groups have been pressing the monarch to speed up what they consider to be the slow pace of political reform. They are also angry with an electoral law passed last July, which preserves a system that marginalises the representation of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, on whom Islamists rely for their support, in favour of native Jordanians, who tend to support the king.
As long as the Brotherhood relies on Israeli Palestinians, rather than Jordanian Palestinians, it has no hope of winning popular support. Its strategy is divisive and not likely to appeal to ordinary Jordanian Palestinians.
Islamists like the Brotherhood do not actually recognize nations or borders and championing the Palestinian refugees bid in Jordan is a smart and effective move, but to stave it off all that Abdullah has to do is keep relying on Jordanian opposition to the Brotherhood’s Palestinian project.