The candidates running in Jordan’s upcoming parliamentary elections have slogans and campaign promises that would sound familiar to voters in the historic recent polls of other Arab countries. But a quick glance at the Jordanian ballot reveals a list of hopefuls who stand apart from many of the competitors in other post-Arab Spring elections: Of the 1,400 candidates running on Wednesday for this monarchy’s 150-seat Parliament, only 22 are Islamists. After major gains in elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, Islamists are set to make little electoral impact in the first Jordanian polls since a pro-democracy movement broke out here in 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood — which is Jordan’s strongest opposition force and runs its most organized political party — is boycotting the vote, mainly in protest of an elections law it claims will prevent a fair vote.
The boycott has cast doubt on the legitimacy of Jordan’s first elections since 2010, which officials tout as the centerpiece of the democratic reforms undertaken by the kingdom after nearly two years of simmering protests. But the boycott has also highlighted a key difference, and limitation, that Islamists in the region’s monarchies confront as they seek to capitalize on the rise of political Islam.
Unlike the clean slates enjoyed by Islamists in post-revolution Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — where former autocrats had been overthrown — Jordan’s Brotherhood is competing with the entrenched and still relatively popular Hashemite monarchy. King Abdullah II’s regime has so far proved resilient even in the face of widespread anger over rising prices, and analysts say the Brotherhood, which has unsuccessfully pushed for faster democratic reforms, concluded that it had little to gain by running.