Jordan’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood said Friday it will boycott upcoming parliamentary elections in protest over recent changes to the kingdom’s election laws, which it says fall short of opposition demands. A boycott would deal a blow to King Abdullah II, who has made his reform campaign the centerpiece of efforts to stave off protests similar to those that have toppled other rulers in the region’s so-called Arab Spring. Islamists have made gains all over the Middle East and show increasing strength in Jordan, where regular street protests over the past 18 months have called for wider public participation in politics andrestrictions on the king’s absolute powers.
Analyst Labib Kamhawi said the Brotherhood’s announcement marks the start of political interaction with the government, but warned of looming trouble if the demands are not met. “The government must either change the elections law again to absorb the opposition, or it risks trouble and a total disengagement between the regime and the people,” he said.
The elections, expected at the end of the year though no date has officially been set, are critical to the king’s campaign. He has changed 42 articles, or one-third of Jordan’s 60-year-old constitution, giving parliament a say in appointing Cabinets — a task which used to be his sole prerogative. “The government left us no choice but to boycott the elections because it did not show any seriousness toward real reforms,” Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr told The Associated Press.