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Opinion

What did Jordan’s parliamentary elections show?

What is the meaning of the apparent worsening of relations between Amman and the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Jordanian parliament approves a bill to ban the import of natural gas from Israel, Jan. 19, 2020. Source: Jordanian parliament via Facebook.
The Jordanian parliament approves a bill to ban the import of natural gas from Israel, Jan. 19, 2020. Source: Jordanian parliament via Facebook.
Pinhas Inbar (JCPA)
Pinhas Inbari
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper. He currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The parliamentary elections held in Jordan on Nov. 10 were marked by Palestinian indifference, the awakening of the Bedouin periphery, with an emphasis on the young Bedouin generation, and a crisis between the government administration and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The overall turnout was 1,386,749 voters, or 30 percent, with a relatively large vote in the periphery communities. But in major cities such as Amman, where Palestinians are heavily represented, turnout was very low, perhaps unprecedentedly so. (Overall voter turnout in 2016 reached 36 percent.)

Of course, one can attribute the low turnout to COVID-19, but the Bedouin youth cared and came out to vote, while the urban Palestinians remained indifferent.

In the person-on-the-street polling done by the Jordanian press, it was clear that only one thing interested the youth: the economic and social situation. Not political solutions, not Jerusalem, nothing. Just economics. The new Jordanian parliament will be measured by the solutions it finds to the social and economic distress and the horizon it presents to the younger generation.

The Arab Spring broke out in 2010 because of a refusal to grant a despairing young man a license for a market stand in some unknown Tunisian town. However, the ensuing Arab storms failed. Will pressure at the polls result in a different outcome?

Why the Palestinian indifference?

It is not certain. As pointed out above, in absolute numbers voter turnout was very low. A democratic spirit is not sweeping Jordan. A poll taken by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan showed that “nearly 80 percent of Jordanians do not trust the House of Representatives.”

Why didn’t the Palestinians participate in the elections? Their “street smarts” tells them that stability that brings them personal security is preferable over democracy. They also prefer not to stick out in the Jordanian parliament to avoid challenging the Bedouins, who see Jordan as their home and the Palestinians as guests. We find similar “street smarts” in eastern Jerusalem. Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem say life is good for them in Israel, but they do not want “democratic rights” so as not to annoy the Israelis. Life is good for them the way things are.

Enter the Muslim Brotherhood …

What is more interesting is what is happening between the Hashemites and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the eve of the elections, a Jordanian court disqualified the registration of the Muslim Brotherhood as a party. This resulted in internal consultations, and in the end, the Brotherhood announced that they would participate in the elections anyway. Like all other candidates, their candidates would run as individuals rather than within a partisan framework.

The worsening of relations between the Hashemite administration and the Brotherhood is critical because on this matter Jordan has a fundamental disagreement with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The two countries see the Muslim Brotherhood as an avowed enemy, but Jordan has a historical alliance with them. They control the Waqf [religious affairs] office, which is vital to Jordan for maintaining its guardianship of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Therefore, the rift between the Jordanian administration and the Brotherhood is unexpected, but Amman probably understands that to receive the financial assistance it needs for its frustrated youth, Jordan will have to listen carefully to what its wealthy neighbors want.

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and “Al Hamishmar” newspaper. He currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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