“The Jan. 23 vote could set the stage for a possible showdown between Abdullah and the Islamic Action Front [the Brotherhood’s political wing]. The group leads a fractured opposition in Jordan that includes liberal youth activists, trade unionists, Arab nationalists and Communists,” AP’s Jamal Halaby reports:
Traditionally, the Brotherhood has been loyal to the Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty, which claims ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad. Brotherhood leaders have joined Cabinets in the past and held top government positions. And unlike other Mideast nations where the Brotherhood was until last year’s Arab Spring revolts banned or suppressed, it has been a licensed political party for decades in Jordan. But recently, the fundamentalist group has been eager to gain more power in the kingdom, seeing its peers now ruling in Egypt and Tunisia.
“We are against the elections because they are a theatrical gimmick meant to maintain the government’s strong grip on power,” said IAF leader Hamza Mansour. “We call on all Jordanians to boycott the polls.”
The regime is “fearful that the conflict [in Syria] is also creating a powerful cause for its own restless Islamists,” writes The Economist’s Nicholas Pelham: “though most of the munitions entering Syria come across other borders, a merchant with ties to the well-established Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is running guns to groups in southern Syria, according to a Western diplomat.”
“All of this has posed a complicated challenge for Jordan’s King Abdullah,” Pelham writes from the ground:
Although the King has called for Assad to step down, he also hopes to maintain a more secular order in a new Syria and has long been wary of how the conflict is giving his own Muslim Brotherhood growing clout. For years the Brotherhood has been one of the most organized political forces in the kingdom. And while the movement has remained loyal to the monarchy and worked within the system, its leaders has shown an increasing readiness to challenge royal authority in recent months, as their counterparts in other countries have swept to power.
“If the Middle East is going to be run by the Brotherhood, we’re all screwed, and you can kiss moderate Islam goodbye,” a senior government official recently told me.
“Should Syria fall to the Islamists, Jordan’s geopolitical situation might look much like it did in the 1950s, when anti-colonial Arab Nationalism swept through the region, leaving Jordan’s British-backed monarchy sandwiched between a Nasserist union of Egypt and Syria,” Pelham writes in the NYRB:
Abdullah’s father, “pepperpot” King Hussein, survived long after Nasserism, ironically helped by support from the same Muslim Brotherhood his son now decries as a secret society bent on establishing a regional theocracy. Unlike his father or his fellow monarch, Mohammed VI of Morocco, King Abdullah has even shied from engaging his homegrown Islamists, leaving him even more isolated than his father was.