Jordanian law aims to block (some) religious parties (JERUSALEM POST) By ABDULLAH OMAR/THE MEDIA LINE 05/15/12)
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AMMAN, Jordan - Jordanian authorities have drawn the ire of
opposition groups after parliament´s endorsement of a controversial
new Parties Law that would ban the formation of political factions
based on religious ideologies.
The law, which still must be approved by the Senate and enacted by
King Abdullah II, is widely seen as a measure to prevent the creation
of Salafist parties, in response to the Islamist trend’s growing
popularity in Egypt and Tunisia. The law is worded carefully enough
that it will have no impact on older, more established Islamist
parties, including the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm
of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the pro-regime Islamist Centrist Party.
The bill comes one year after protests swept the kingdom demanding
political reform and public involvement in decision-making. The
government claims the new law is part of its reform campaign and to
encourage Jordanians to become more involved in politics.
“The Salafi groups, be it traditional Salafis or jihadis have shown
time and again that they are not interested in political activities.
But the government wants to emphasize its position concerning the
rising power of Islamists,” said Abu Omar, a prominent Salafi from
the eastern city of Zarqa, told The Media Line.
Abla Abu Elebeh, secretary-general of the Hashed political party,
said the new law is a step in the wrong direction. “It’s regrettable
that such a law has been passed. It contains many negative parts and
sends the wrong message, not only to existing political parties, but
to young and aspiring parties because it will limit their roles in
society,” she said in a statement.
Over the past few years, Jordanian authorities have cracked down on
Salafist groups, who espouse a form of Islamism that seeks to revive
religious practices as they were in the days of Muhammad the Prophet.
Traditionally, they have rejected electoral politics as un-Islamic,
but in Egypt they jettisoned that stand and ran candidates for
parliament, capturing a quarter of the seats in election over
December and January.
In Jordan, authorities regularly imprison key Salafi leaders.
Movement activists insist that the group has no political ambitions
but that the government wants to send the message that it will not
tolerate Salafi activities or political involvement.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates a more moderate
form of Islam, though one held in suspicion by secular governments
and many in the West, accuses authorities of refusing to implement
true political reform. It says the Parties Law is nothing more than
an attempt to weaken its influence in Jordanian politics.
The new law would also restrict foreign funding of political parties
and place control of all political parties in hands of the Interior
Jordan’s parliament is also currently considering a new Elections
Law, which is also seen by opposition leaders as being anti-reform.
Analysts say the law’s aim is to maintain the king’s leverage of the
pro-regime tribes, while discouraging nationally orientated parties
and marginalizing Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who make up at
least half the country’s population but have been denied political
power in proportion to their number.
The election law is “the toughest of the challenges” facing the new
government, according to Oded Eran, an analyst with Israel Institute
for National Strategic Studies.
“The king is trying to steer a course between the demand by the
opposition – particularly the Muslim Brotherhood – for full
proportional representation, which would reflect the support for the
organization, and the king’s own desire not to lose control of
parliament even while projecting the appearance of a reform-minded
sovereign,” he said in a report released on Monday.
Observers say that the two pieces of legislation have been promoted
by right-wing groups close to the security forces and the army, which
oppose the rise of the Islamist movement.
The royal palace has stated repeatedly that the kingdom is committed
to implementing reform but opposition party leaders believe that the
two new pieces of legislation show otherwise.
They point to King Abdullah’s appointment of a conservative prime
minister, Fayez Al-Tarawneh, earlier this month as another reason for
pessimism among political activists, who describe the new premier as
anti-reform. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/15/12)
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