MB offshoot in Jordan set to become lead players among Jordanian lawmakers

MB offshoot in Jordan set to become lead players among Jordanian lawmakers

With its Friday anti-government rallies here attracting more protesters each week, the Muslim Brotherhood has positioned itself to become a leading player among Jordanian lawmakers if democratic reforms are enacted.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, is Jordan’s only established opposition party, and analysts estimate that it could win up to 25 percent of parliamentary seats if electoral reforms are carried out.

Although the Brotherhood’s domestic agenda contains uncontroversial goals such as fighting corruption and poverty, some Jordanians worry that the Islamist group’s hard line against Israel could upset the region’s delicate security balance.

Political analysts say the IAF, which has participated in many of the reformist rallies that have taken place here every Friday for the past two months, has no practical reason to seek to dissolve Jordan’s tenuous peace deal with Israel, the key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

But IAF Deputy Secretary-General Nimer al-Assaf has uttered strong words against the Jewish state. “We do not agree to the peace treaty with Israel simply because we do not feel that it is just,” he said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, in an image made available by the Jordanian Royal Court, waves to crowds who throng the streets of Mazar Shamali, 80 miles north of Amman, to greet the monarch on Tuesday. The king appears to be almost universally popular in Jordan . (Associated Press)

Mr.al-Assaf accused Israel of having imperialistic aims in Jordan, but he said the future of the peace agreement should be decided by a popular referendum.

When it was founded in the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood endorsed the violent spread of fundamentalist Islam, but it has since abandoned support for terrorism, except against Israel.

Jordanian analysts say the IAF is neither prepared to take on Israel and the international status quo nor capable of maintaining popular support if the organization diverges from addressing domestic concerns.

Jordanians face widespread poverty and almost 14 percent unemployment. Taxes range from 16 percent on medicines to as much as 40 percent on gas. In the heart of the Middle East , Jordanians complain that they pay more at the pump than Americans.

Meanwhile, salaries have stagnated as prices rise. Average working people are earning about $350 a month here in the capital, Amman , largely considered to be the most expensive city in the Middle East .