Dr. Köprülü is an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations at the Near East University in North Cyprus. Her research interests include processes of democratization and the politics of identity in the Arab Middle East.
The Islamist movement — in particular the Muslim Brotherhood — has begun to be seen as one of the main beneficiaries of the uprisings in the post-2011 Middle East. The Islamist group's support for public rallies (especially in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria) epitomizes a new era of challenge for the incumbent Arab regimes. Although it is too early to speak of structural change or a revolutionary era in the region, the events of the Arab Spring have highlighted the profound effect the Muslim Brotherhood Society (Jamaat al-Ikhwan al Muslimin) is having in most Middle Eastern countries.
Despite the fact that the uprisings sparked changes to certain political rules in the region, the main players within the systems themselves have, to a large degree, remained in place. Rather than wiping the slate clean, the Arab Spring has encouraged former political players in the region to switch positions and activities inside the prevailing system. One of the clearest examples of this is the Ikhwan and its political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
For Jordan, the IAF's change in stance is only one outcome of the protests. Jordan's democratization process has also been influenced by another by-product of the recent uprisings: a resurgence of East Bank activism, witnessed for the first time since the socioeconomic riots in Maan in 2002. Although not in fact triggered by identity issues within the kingdom, the recent public rallies have led to the re-emergence of historical divisions and called into question the notion of loyalty between Jordanians and the citizens of Jordan with Palestinian origins.
For the Arab Middle East in general, the uprisings can be best explained as a legitimacy crisis in which incumbent regimes lost the support of the masses. Economic and social pressures provoked widespread demands for political and economic reform. In the Kingdom of Jordan, before the Arab uprisings, political liberalization efforts were primarily initiated by domestic economic grievances and had little impact, as compared to the other countries in the region. This article argues that with the onset of the public rallies and Islamist activist insurgence in the Arab world, Jordan came to represent the epitome of "new change." Steps taken by the government to uphold its own process of political reform from 2011 onwards resonated in other countries. Due to the permeable nature of the Arab world's borders, Jordan's regime-led style of democratization has spread, and Islamist activism (Ikhwan and the IAF, in particular) has been prompted to redefine and reconstruct itself.
Until the onset of the Arab Spring, the trend towards democratization in Jordan was generally influenced by socioeconomic problems to which the monarchy responded with an agenda of political openness. This changed with the Arab Spring, when East Banker domestic activism combined with repercussions from the Arab subsystem to stimulate the political reform process.
Currently, in the Hashemite Kingdom, the Islamist movement has emerged as one of the main actors in the mobilization of public debate on political reform. One of the most stable regimes in the Middle East, Jordan is a clear example of the Brotherhood and Islamic Action Front acting both as "loyal opposition"1 and as an impetus for political liberalization. Nevertheless, the latest social uprisings have led to growing tensions between the kingdom and the Ikhwan/ IAF, despite the IAF's position as the key political party and opposition within post-1992 Jordanian politics.
Transition to Democracy
In 1989, Jordan embarked on a course of political opening spurred by economic recession. The kingdom's motives behind both democratization and the holding of parliamentary elections after 22 years were, in fact, twofold. First of all, a new electoral law was imperative for the monarchy's new politics of identity. When Jordan disengaged from the West Bank in 1988, the electoral law was amended to remove the seats reserved for the West Bank Palestinian territories.2 In line with the kingdom's new West Bank strategy, Jordan attempted a process of nation-building centered around the concept "Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine." The redistribution of parliamentary seats was instrumental in the reconstruction of Jordan's East Bank identity.
Political opening was also an integral part of the kingdom's policy of "co-optation-following-recession," a strategy dating back to the late 1980s. In order to cope with growing East Bank opposition, driven by a 45 percent devaluation of the dinar and the partial breakdown of the patronage system among East Bank tribes, King Hussein responded by initiating a program of political pluralism. Thus, the trend towards democratization can be viewed as the regime's attempt to co-opt growing unrest in the country, particularly in the southern provinces of the East Bank, in order to reconstruct the very nature of state-society relations.3
The opening of the parliament's lower chamber and the holding of elections in 1989 are seen as a melting-pot phase in Jordan's internal politics. Islamist candidates representing the Ikhwan (and later the IAF) succeeded in winning 34 out of 80 seats, thus pushing them into the quasi-permanent position of the main opposition. The legalization of political parties via the National Charter (also known as the Charter for Monarchical Pluralism) in 1992 gave the opposition a new opportunity to voice their demands and grievances regarding Jordan's internal and external affairs. Yet, despite the reform initiatives of 1989, in 1993, in response to the Islamist victory, the kingdom again amended the electoral law. In addition to empowering the opposition, it was proposed that any reform program move in sync with the kingdom's preferences. Two key elements pushed the kingdom to reverse its position further: the normalization of relations with Israel in 1994 and the ascendancy of King Abdullah to the throne after the death of his father, King Hussein, in 1999.
The Opposition and the Islamist Movement
The Kingdom of Jordan represents one of the few hybrid regimes — between a politics of elections and de-liberalization — in the Middle East.4 The history of Jordan's political parties and its multiparty system dates back to the years of independence. The Baathist, Arab nationalist, leftist and Nasserist parties were all founded in the postcolonial era. Having felt the challenge inherent in the rise of Arabism and Nasserist forces, the kingdom banned all political parties in 1957; the ban continued right up to the inauguration of the National Charter in 1992. In addition, when Israel took control of the West Bank territories in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, the kingdom responded by holding back from parliamentary elections until 1989 (with the exception of 1984, when elections were held to fill vacant seats). Thus, between 1957 and 1992, all political parties and opposition groups were deprived of a legitimate arena in which to mobilize.
Debates regarding the weakness of the opposition, as well as the lack of a mass party in Jordan, are not new. As Ellen Lust-Okar indicates, "... in both the 1950s and the 1990s, the linkages between political parties and the masses appear weak, whether measured by the parties' success at the polls, their ability to mobilize the masses in the streets, or their success in establishing media outcomes."5 Given the ban on political parties in 1957 and the failure of the kingdom to set up a mass political party in the manner of Egypt and Syria, the Jordanian opposition was segregated along ideological lines, such as Islamists and leftists, as well as ethnic lines, as in the historical schism between Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin and those Jordanian born. The only group able to cross these lines throughout the period of martial law was the Muslim Brotherhood Society.
The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has a long and exceptional history. Established in 1945 by "a group of merchants who supported a religious struggle (jihad) against Zionists in Palestine,"6 the Jordanian movement has historically pursued a reform-oriented program. Its respect for the constitution of the monarchy was crucial in shaping its close ties with the Hashemite regime. A clear example of this relationship goes back to the early years of state-formation when, in 1946, King Abdullah I gave the Ikhwan's Secretary-General, Abd al-Hakim al-Din, a place in his cabinet with the aim of embracing the Brotherhood within Jordan's domestic politics. Abdul Majid Thunaibat, a former head of the Ikhwan, once stated that their aim was not to resist the monarchy and that their strategy was strongly nonviolent. Due to this approach, King Abdullah I allowed the Ikhwan to open branches and to extend its influence during the early years of state formation. The Ikhwan then fulfilled the role of loyal opposition, invoking a moderate, rather than a revolutionary, agenda.7 While calling for reform from within, the movement has always refrained from challenging Hashemite rule. As Quintan Wiktorowicz indicates,
The historical record supports the Muslim Brotherhood's rhetoric of moderation. It has never seriously challenged the legitimacy or power of the ruling regime. While the Egyptian Brotherhood experienced violent clashes with President Abd al-Nasser and has been repressed by Presidents Sadat and Mubarak, the Jordanian movement has enjoyed a relatively cordial and cooperative relationship with the Hashemite monarchy.8
In fact, the watershed in transforming the Ikhwan into a "loyal opposition" occurred during the 1950s and 1960s, when Arabist and Nasserist challenges reached a peak.9 During martial law, when all the political parties in the country were banned, charitable organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood were still allowed to function. This enabled the Ikhwan, as well as independent Islamists, to extend their political influence through election to positions within various associations including university councils, municipalities, professional associations and student unions. The Ikhwan also helped the king to counter radical Islamic groups, particularly the outlawed the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami).10 For many observers, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan has served as a "defense mechanism" that has prevented more threatening radical movements from emerging.
This nonconfrontational relationship between the kingdom and the Ikhwan has also provided Islamists with governmental posts. Since Palestinian Jordanians were deprived of significant posts in national politics, they were represented through Islamist organizations.11 As Glenn Robinson argues,
The Muslim Brotherhood has been the only organization in Jordan that Palestinian activists can join and work for a political agenda while at the same time avoiding the label Palestinian. The Muslim Brotherhood is the only party in Jordan that effectively integrates Palestinian interests without the political baggage of Palestinian ethnicity.12
Ishaq Farhan, a Palestinian Jordanian, is a former head of the IAF and a senior member of the Ikhwan who served as minister of education (1970), minister of Awqaf (1983-85), and a member of the upper chamber (1989-93) of parliament. Abdul Latif Arabiyyat, another significant leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who is also an East Bank Jordanian, served as speaker of the lower chamber (1989-93) and later became a member of the upper chamber (1997). In 1991, under the Mudar Badran government, prominent members of the Ikhwan were granted various governmental portfolios, including the ministries of education, health and justice.
In fact, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood was central in creating unity within diversity, something certainly not endemic to the region. In addition, as Robinson postulates, the Jordanian case demonstrates that Islamists can act as an impetus for a democratic opening.13 However, internal confrontation over the 1993 electoral law and a standstill in the political reformation process, exacerbated by Jordan's peacemaking with Israel in 1994 and the situation in Palestine, led to a reversal of this democratic opening.
The Ikhwan Revisited
Jordan's peace deal with Israel resulted in widespread public discontent and large-scale demonstrations by various groups including Islamists, leftists, liberals, socialists and former public officials such as Ahmad Obeidat, an East Bank Jordanian and former prime minister.14 The opponents of the peacemaking gathered to protest the normalization of relations with Israel before peace accords were finalized. On May 15, 1994, independent veteran politicians, leftists and Arab-nationalist parties joined the IAF to form the Committee for Resisting Submission and Normalization (CRSN), which aimed to block the process of normalization with Israel.15 The committee not only organized demonstrations opposing the peace process; it also severely condemned the treaty itself. The role of the Ikhwan and the IAF, as well as the Palestinians living in Jordan, lent this opposition to the regime's policies an Islamist texture.
In the meantime, in response to the normalization process, 13 opposition parties established the Higher Committee for the Coordination of National Opposition Parties (HCCNOP).16 Although the committee merged the IAF with Communist and Baathist parties, its inability to unify the opposition has been obvious. Certain internal issues remain thorny, as Janine Clark has indicated. For example, regarding honor crimes, the quota for women and the Personal-Status Law, "Despite some common bases from which negotiations between members of the HCCNOP could have begun on all three issues, the IAF cooperated with the HCCNOP on only one: the quota for women."17 According to Clark, the fact that the committee was able to reach a common understanding on external issues such as the war in Iraq and the situation in Palestine reveals contention surrounding the respect for individual rights. Within this context, it is crucial to scrutinize the differences between moderate Islamists and Islamist radicals within the kingdom.18
Both moderates and hardliners exist within the Brotherhood and the IAF. Moderates in the Front, such as Abdallah al-Akaliah and Bassam al-Umush, believe that the Ikhwan should participate in the Jordanian political arena and elections in order to gain political influence throughout the country. Hardliners, however, insist on the termination of normalization with Israel and the implementation of shariah law. The Islamicization of Palestinians and the opposition has become a new phenomenon in Jordanian politics. In the early years of the monarchy, the Ikhwan was dominated by East Bank families, but increased Palestinian support for the Islamists has been conducive to changing the demographics of the Islamist movement. Given the fact that the Palestinian community is not allowed to form a political organization under the ethnic label "Palestinian," the sole political arena left for Palestinian Jordanians has been that of the Islamist movement. Thus, in the post-1994 era, the longstanding loyalty of the Islamic opposition has, in the eyes of the regime, become increasingly debatable.
In addition, the Brotherhood's close ties with Hamas have restricted Jordan's relations with Israel and had a hand in reshaping the kingdom's relations with Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin. Until the resurgence of Hamas in Gaza, the Ikhwan in Jordan considered the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the representative of a number of Palestinians, but not all. The growing influence of Hamas generated a spillover effect among Palestinian Jordanians.19 With the Ikhwan's political stance centered entirely on the Palestinian cause, the emergence of Hamas in the 2006 elections produced a new regional player that affected the restructuring of the kingdom's relations with the Ikhwan.
The Ikhwan and the Front
As mentioned above, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood represents one of the singular cases in the Middle East where Islamic activism has not turned into violence. The Jordanian Ikhwan is a grassroots organization that aims to cooperate with the monarchy rather than struggle against it. The relationship therefore centered on mutual interests and gains.
As Arab-nationalist goals and Nasserist ideals faded, the opposition bloc in Jordan adopted a more Islamist tone. Both internal and regional dynamics have underpinned this phenomenon. On a domestic level, the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 and the resurgence of Islamist forces coincided with the decline in the leftist movement in Jordan. Additionally, the regime-controlled democratic opening strengthened a variety of political groups in the post-1989 era. The convening of parliament and the subsequent lifting of the ban on political parties allowed the opposition — the Palestinian Jordanian community, in particular — to have a say in the ongoing debates on political reform and the Palestinian problem. The IAF acted as one of these opposition forces and was permitted to operate vigorously following the inauguration of the new Political Parties Law in 1992. Mansoor Moaddel has quoted Ishaq Fahran:
The Jordanian (Islamic party) is quite promising, offering a model for democracy for the Arab world, and offering a decent model for political Islam, working … in compromise and coexistence with the regime, the people and the other parties.20
At this point, it is imperative to elaborate on the "inclusion-moderation" hypothesis. In her book Faith in Moderation, Jillian Schwedler asserts that "measuring an increase in moderation as a result of political inclusion has proved exceptionally difficult. Moderation may entail a relative increase in tolerance, but this is not the argument that is implied [by this hypothesis]."21 Schwedler's argument relies on the fact that most Islamist movements functioning as integral parts of political systems are not, in fact, radical. "The normative appeal of the inclusion-moderation hypothesis," Schwedler continues, "is that inclusion may deflate radicalism and turn revolutionaries into reformers, not that moderates may become more moderate."22 In the case of the Middle East — and Jordan, in particular — Islamist groups were integrated into the political system prior to the democratic opening launched in the late 1980s.
It is widely accepted that Jordan's mainstream Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood Society, in particular — have challenged neither the foundation nor the longevity of the Hashemite monarchy, but have worked through the constraints and opportunities laid down by the kingdom. However, the Ikhwan's electoral victory in the 1989 parliamentary elections and the ascendancy of King Abdullah II to the throne in 1999 paved the way for a new era in the longstanding and institutionalized relationship. This can be clearly seen in the IAF's policy of election participation vs. boycott.
From Elections to Boycotts
Founded in 1992 as the de facto political wing of the Ikhwan, the IAF gained 17 seats in the 80-seat lower chamber in the 1993 parliamentary elections. With the growing influence of political pluralism, the IAF has become the main opposition in the parliament, as well as a leading voice in the demands for increased political reform. The public outcry over the normalization of relations with Israel hampered a number of democratization attempts. The first signal that the kingdom should retreat from political liberalization came in 1994 with the founding of the committee, which aimed to merge all groups in the country opposed to normalization into a combined resistance. Calls for further political reform from the Islamists — not only the Brotherhood, but the independent Islamists as well — grew louder during this period. In 1992, Laith Shubeilat, an East Bank independent Islamist and former member of the lower chamber, was arrested for allegedly promoting the overthrow of the government. Shubeilat's calls for democratic reforms were regarded as an attack on the political system, and both he and his friend Yaqub Qarrash were sentenced to death (the king later pardoned them under a general amnesty).23 The case of Laith Shubeilat illustrates how Islamists came to be perceived as potential threats to the monarchy in the post-1990 period.24
In fact, the first attempt at deliberalization dates back to 1993, when Prime Minister Abdul Salem Al-Majali asked the parliament to amend the electoral law (also referred to as "Majali's Law"). This law replaced the prevailing "multiple-vote system" with a one-person-one-vote formula known as the Single Non-Transferable Vote, or SNTV. The seats in the lower chamber were also redistributed, with more allocated to the southern cities — predominately populated by East Bankers, from which the regime obtains the majority of its support. As Russell Lucas states,
The new electoral system benefited regime supporters — especially those with tribal support. The change in the Election Law would make the regime's life much easier by manipulating the composition of the House of Deputies to be elected in November 1993. With a more pro-regime Parliament, the challenges to the government's planned legislative agenda would be reduced and the power of opposition dissent lessened. Thus the future peace treaty would not be blocked or delayed, and economic legislation could move forward.25
East and West Bankers Divided
Since the early years of the monarchy, identity has occupied a central space in every aspect of Jordanian lives. The Palestinian migration had an enormous impact on the process of identity building in Transjordan (and later Jordan). With the incorporation of the West Bank, the demographic structure of the country radically changed. Although official records suggest that Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin comprise 43 percent of the population, the case for a Palestinian numerical majority in Jordan is a matter of significant debate in the literature.26 For instance, for Yitzhak Reiter, Transjordanians represent the political majority, but the economic minority, while Palestinian-Jordanians dominate the economic sector and represent the economic majority.27 As Curtis Ryan indicates, "There is general agreement in the literature on identity politics in the kingdom that this line — between Palestinians and East Jordanians — can at times be one of the deepest fissures in Jordanian politics, but that it is also but one of many levels of identity within the kingdom."28 Ryan also explores the roots of Palestinian and Jordanian identity, referring to the facts that Palestinian national identity "has been deeply affected by the struggle with Israel" and that Jordanian national identity has been constructed by "the creation of the state itself as a Hashemite Kingdom."29 The 1993 public debates on electoral law back up Ryan's claims.
With a population of 92 percent Muslim, 6 percent Christian and 2 percent Shiite Muslim and Druze,30 public debate on Jordanian demographics and the representation of these groups has been based on a limited and inadequate portrayal of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin in national politics. Following the disengagement from Palestinian lands in 1989, the kingdom reformulated the electoral law, dissociating West Bank seats previously allocated to the lower chamber and restoring seats to East Bank districts. In revising the electoral districts, the kingdom devised the electoral law on the basis of proportional representation; the majority of the seats were assigned to those provinces populated predominately by Jordanian Jordanians at the expense of Jordanians of Palestinian descent.31 In responding to the internal unrest posed by the economic crisis of 1988-89, the electoral law was based on the formula of 80 seats from 20 electoral constituencies.32 As Russell Lucas says,
Under the distribution of the seats in the 1989 amendments, Christians, Circassians, Chechens and Bedouins were again all overrepresented in comparison to their proportion of Jordan's population. Given the malapportioned distribution of seats in geographically determined constituencies, the main factor determining the make-up of the Parliament elected in 1989 was the fact that voters were able to cast multiple votes under an open-list plurality system;… a Muslim voter in Irbid could select up to eight Muslim candidates and one Christian.33
The revision of the electoral law in 1993 was not only a product of the growing power of the Islamists; it was also aimed at weakening the rhetoric of an "alternative homeland" by providing privileged political representation to Jordanians of East Bank origin.
Then, on July 8, 1997, the Ikhwan officially declared that it would boycott the upcoming elections. Two key factors were behind this: the SNTV formula inherent in the "controversial" electoral law, and the kingdom's normalization of relations with Israel in 1994. The Jordanian People's Unity Party, HASDH, and the Constitutional Front Party joined the Ikhwan electoral boycott as well. Although the IAF followed the Ikhwan's decision and also participated in the boycott campaign, the event illustrated that the organizational link between the Front and the Brotherhood was not always without controversy. Six members of the Front and the Ikhwan were expelled from the Brotherhood due to their participation in the 1997 elections.34 This first electoral boycott on the part of the IAF is instrumental for understanding the choices and limitations of the various internal political players — the regime and the IAF — regarding Jordan's future steps towards political reform.35 As Russell Lucas suggests, "It [the boycott] would be the first time that the opposition led a serious challenge to the regime's management of institutions in political society."36
Another important dynamic in the IAF boycott was related to its political support for the liberation of Muslim Palestine. A group within the Front argued that "Palestine belonged to all Muslims, not just to Palestinians, therefore no government or group — Muslim or otherwise — had the right to concede any parts of historic Palestine to Israel."37 Due to this party policy, most IAF deputies did not attend the parliamentary vote, and the peace treaty was eventually ratified by the parliament without them. According to Zaki Bani Irsheid, former secretary-general of the IAF and one of the leaders of the Brotherhood, "A new era has opened in shaping the kingdom's long-standing ties with the Brotherhood following the normalization of relations with Israel, without finding a durable solution to the Palestinian problem."38 Thus, the Jordanian Brotherhood's close ties with Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood Society, had a detrimental impact on the kingdom's attitude towards the Ikhwan, as well as the IAF. The Front was divided between moderate doves and conservative hawks. For Irsheid, the peacemaking with Israel was a watershed in terms of redefining the unique nonconfrontational relationship between the Ikhwan and the throne.39
With this move, the IAF not only staged its political opposition to the normalization of relations; the absence of IAF members during the parliamentary vote clearly represented the Front's intention not to damage its ties with the king.
2010 IAF Electoral Boycott
Before the parliamentary elections of 2010, the IAF participated in those of 2003 and 2007, gaining 16 and 6 seats, respectively. The results of the 2007 elections were highly contentious; 98 out of 110 seats were acquired by independent candidates. Instrumental in shaping public opinion at the time were the events of November 9, 2005, Jordan's 9/11. Back in 2002, the kingdom had inaugurated the "Jordan First, Arab Second" campaign as a nation-building program, but the Amman bombings, allegedly connected to al-Qaeda, forced the monarchy to take a step backwards in its political-liberalization program and pushed the survival of the monarchy and a "Security First" approach to the top of Jordan's agenda.40
Following public demands for increased political reform, King Abdullah dissolved the parliament in 2009, announcing that elections would be held two years earlier than planned. This was the second time during his rule that the king attempted to suspend parliament. Although the kingdom revised the electoral law before the elections in November 2010, the amended law did nothing to convince the opposition, the Ikhwan, in particular. The Front announced that it would boycott the upcoming national elections. This was justified by the lack of a genuine desire for reform in the country, even though after the finalization of the peace treaty with Israel, the IAF's new stance and an ideological split within the Ikhwan became apparent.
According to Juan Jose Escobar Stemmann, the 2006 appointment of Zaki Bani Irsheid was perceived by the regime as a sign that "Hamas had managed to penetrate the organization."41 In June 2006, two IAF leaders, Ahmad Sukkar and Muhammad Abu Faris, were arrested after visiting Abdul Mussab al-Zarqawi's house to offer condolences. Following the parliamentary victory of Hamas in the 2006 elections, the kingdom shifted its position in order to contain the growing influence of the Brotherhood. At this time, one of the kingdom's main pre-emptive measures was to ask the Brotherhood to prepare a list of "moderate candidates" to run in the 2007 parliamentary elections. In line with this new strategy on the part of the king, the Front's Shura Council submitted a list of "acceptable" candidates, which subsequently netted six seats for the IAF.
From the point of view of Oraib al-Rantawi, the director of the al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman, the 2010 IAF boycott was, first and foremost, rooted in the controversial electoral law. Rantawi argues,
The 2007 elections were the worst in our history due to the frauds. Then the government came up with a new electoral law. The important issue here is the controversial election law. These debates then kept moving on the same track. People are pessimistic about the future process of democratization. There is a standstill in the whole process; this is the main reason why the Brotherhood boycotted the elections.42
According to various IAF members, gaining only six seats in the lower chamber following the 2007 elections was a direct result of the disputed electoral law. In addition, as Stemmann indicates,
... the government forced the moderate wing of the Brotherhood to exclude members of the Palestinian sector from the list of candidates for the parliamentary elections in November. Sidelining the leaders of the IAF, the Shura Council agreed to field a limited list of "acceptable candidates" for the elections that were held on November 20, 2007. The decision merely compounded the debacle of Jordan's main Islamist party, …plunging official Islamism into an identity and leadership crisis from which it has still not recovered.43
For Muhammed Abu Rummani, a Jordanian writer, the rift within the Brotherhood provoked a power shift among the leading members of the society, allowing "the hawks to return to power, bypassing the reformists."44 Thus, the election of conservative Ikhwan leader Hamza Mansour as the IAF's secretary-general five months before the elections was no coincidence.
On the one hand, the moderate wing of the Brotherhood as well as the IAF called for a constitutional monarchy, stressing "the need for an elected government and parliament, regular alternation of power, changes to the mechanism of forming governments and making decisions."45 The hawks, on the other hand, emphasized radical structural changes in Jordanian politics, demanding a confrontational stance toward the government46 rather than "making do with the usual Brotherhood rhetoric on a limited number of issues such as public freedoms, Islamization and supporting Hamas in Palestine."47 These internal debates within the Brotherhood and the Front led Jordanian Islamists — including, for the first time, the traditional wing of the Brotherhood — to stress the need for structural political change, as opposed to existing as protected "integrationists" within the prevailing system.48
In this context, rather than viewing the Brotherhood's election boycotts as simply the radicalization of the Ikhwan, they can also be regarded as the application of political pressure in a bid for more public space, a workable constitutional monarchy and the Brotherhood's full integration into the domestic affairs of Jordan. The Front leaders realized that withdrawing from electoral campaigns and elections was a useful strategy to force the government to accelerate the reform process and thus revise the controversial electoral law.49 As Rumman states,
The Brotherhood is still haunted by its decision to sit on the sidelines during 1997 elections, which left the movement without any leverage in confronting the state. This time the Brotherhood is determined not to repeat that experience but to transform the boycott into a political platform, a course of action that will inevitably mean an escalation in the showdown with the government.50
The Spring and the IAF
Since 1989, the doves, led by Hamza Mansour, had been at the helm of the Ikhwan. Their influence over the party was evident in its participation in the 1992 National Charter. Jordan's peacemaking with Israel in 1994, however, led to the crystalization of a new group within the Brotherhood, the wasat (center). This younger group came from universities and professional associations;51 its main agenda concerned bringing an end to the Front's electoral boycott in 1997 and downgrading the emphasis on Hamas. However, the expulsion of Hamas leaders from Jordan in 1999 paved the way for the emergence of yet another faction within the Ikhwan, one that resisted the normalization of relations with Israel. Most of the Ikhwan members elected to parliament in 2003 derived from this faction.
Following the upper chamber's authorization of the new election law (which came into force at the beginning of July 2012), the Ikhwan announced it would boycott the upcoming elections in protest of the one-person-one-vote SNTV formula and the inadequate attempts of the government to reallocate legislative seats on the basis of proportional representation. The Ikhwan's announcement was then followed up by IAF leader Hamza Mansour's statement that the amended elections law "forgoes the will of Jordanian citizens."52
The election law raised the number of seats in the lower chamber from 140 to 150 and enabled voters to cast two votes, one for the candidate competing in their local district (under the SNTV formula) and one under the new proportional electoral system. In other words, 27 seats from the 150-seat chamber were to be filled on the basis of proportional representation at the national level, with the aim of reinforcing the representation of political parties, while the remaining 123 candidates would be elected according to the old SNTV formula. The opposition — the Ikhwan, in particular — considered the amended law disappointing. In addition, Marwan Muasher, a former minister of foreign affairs, said, "There has been a lack of planning from the start, and now it is almost impossible for the state to save face while correcting its own mistakes."53 Eventually, the elections were held on January 23, 2013, without the Ikhwan's participation. The result was similar to prior parliaments: the majority of seats were allocated to regime loyalists and the tribes.54
When the public rallies began, Zaki Bani Irsheid was quoted in the Jordan Times as saying, "If the government and the Parliament believe they can ignore the people's will a second time, then they haven't learned the lessons of the Arab Spring."55 He was clearly alluding to the new backdrop forming behind the Ikhwan's relations with the monarchy. The Ikhwan and the Front were pointing to the heterogeneous nature of Islamists in the Arab world. In addition to familiar faces such as al-Nahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, newly emerging Islamist groups like the Salafi Front in Egypt (the Al-Nour party) started to appear in the region.56 Differing opinions on the connection between Islam and democracy produced ideological and structural differences between the various Islamist groups. In the case of Jordan, the Front is not only addressing the lack of a genuine desire for democracy; it is also trying to cope with monarchical pluralism. The main agenda of the IAF during the uprisings was based on a call for real political reforms. In this respect, it is imperative to explore the future political position of the Front in Jordan's politics, particularly as its decision not to join the 2013 elections was rooted in its newly fragile relations with the throne.
East Bank Activism: Déjà Vu
In Jordan's 67-year history, the monarchy has been severely challenged on a number of occasions. One was the 1956 Abu Nuwwar Plot that forced King Hussein to impose martial law to cope with the Nasserist, Socialist and Arabist camps. Another came in 1970-71 during the fedayeen episode — the civil war — when the kingdom first found the PLO to be a threat to the longevity of the monarchy. After the Israeli takeover of the West Bank territories, the PLO began to behave as a separate state within Jordan, prompting the kingdom to send PLO activists into exile. Indeed, it was after the civil war that Jordanians of Palestinian descent began to be perceived as the main internal threat.57
The 1989 bread riots in Maan that erupted in the wake of an economic recession illustrated for the first time that East Bankers could also pose a challenge to the regime's policies. The 1996 riots in Karak were another example of this new socioeconomic phenomenon. The Maan incident (the case of Abu Sayyaf) in 2002 brought to the fore the fact that it was not only socioeconomic dynamics driving East Bank activism, but that the Islamists, namely the Salafists, were also a crucial element within the internal opposition.
During the 2011 uprisings, the outbreak of public demonstrations in the southern cities of Jordan, which quickly spread to the streets of Amman, added a completely new dimension to internal politics. The public protests were primarily organized by East Bank Jordanians and lacked any significant Palestinian element. The dissatisfaction among the East Bankers signaled their primary agenda through the emergence of Hirak (movement).58 This tribal-based opposition group clearly signifies the immediate challenge the kingdom faces today. It is the East Bank activism that led the internal opposition and public protests during the heyday of the Arab Spring, rather than the Palestinians and radical/militant Islamist groups. This constituted a new dynamic, as the regime has historically acquired its legitimacy from the East Bank cities and by mobilizing tribal affiliations.
The IAF and Ikhwan were, in fact, reluctant to organize public rallies; nevertheless, the kingdom diverted attention to the Islamists and Ikhwan in order to contain the opposition. Even so, the Ikhwan hesitated at the beginning of the social upheavals to join the rallies; it was the Ikhwan once again that brought the revision of the electoral law before the 2013 parliamentary elections. The Ikhwan's boycott of those elections urged the kingdom to indicate that their decision not to join the upcoming elections was "a mistake."59 Abdullah Ensour, the prime minister who replaced Tawarneh in October 2012 and was reappointed on March 9, 2013, stated, "In the street and in demonstrations you express your opinion, but the decision to change laws and to make amendments to the constitution has to be done by the parliament.…"60
The rise of East Bank activism is one of the more significant phenomena to emerge during the Arab uprisings regarding the reconstruction of state-society relations in Jordan. Thanks to the permeable borders in the region, it has been one of the major repercussions of the Arab Spring in the kingdom. This activism represents the first time political reformation has been demanded by East Bankers, rather than driven simply by internal factors, and may be attributed to a spillover effect from social movements in the Arab subsystem. In addition, it is the very first time since 1989 that the kingdom has committed itself to the process of political liberalization.
This article highlights two fundamental aspects inherent in the process of political reform in the kingdom and the extent to which these reforms are applicable to Jordan in the post-Arab Spring uprisings era. The first of these concerns the re-emergence of East Bank activism with demands for increased political reformation. The second hinges on a new fragility in the relationship between the Ikhwan (and the IAF) and the throne. This change in the nature of the Jordanian opposition is, for the most part, linked to the normalization with Israel as well as King Abdullah II's ascendancy to the throne in 1999.
The long-stablished strategic bond between the kingdom and the Ikhwan has generated an Islamist movement in Jordan that is moderate and nonviolent when compared with other countries in the Middle East. Lately, the kingdom has felt obliged to provide a political safe haven for the Muslim Brotherhood in an attempt to contain and monitor Salafis and Islamist activists, in general. The factions demanding a direct challenge to the Hashemite monarchy believed it was necessary to divert the IAF away from the political arena in order to gain nation-wide support. Ultimately, this was conducive in diminishing the impact of jihadist militant Islamist groups within the country. Nevertheless, the kingdom may need to rebuild its longstanding ties with the Ikhwan and the IAF after the latter's electoral boycott of the last two national elections. The kingdom continues to develop its relations with Israel under the 1994 peace treaty. Twelve hundred protesters affiliated with the Ikhwan called on "the government to meet the demands of people who have repeatedly called for freezing and cancelling the peace treaty [with Israel]" following the Knesset debate on Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.61
The recent social upheavals in the Arab world neither challenged nor bypassed the Hashemite Kingdom. However, the public rally and events of March 25 have clearly demonstrated that the growing distrust between the Ikhwan and the throne has led the kingdom to perceive the Islamists, as well as Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin, to be the main threats to the survival of the monarchy.62
With the influx of refugees in the aftermath of the crisis in Syria, Jordan becomes the country hosting the largest number: 600,000,63 equal to nearly 8-9 percent of the kingdom's total population. A political analyst has said that "Jordan, at present, is not stable. All of the tensions of the Arab Spring exist here, too. And there are real concerns that the Syrian crisis threatens the very existence of the Jordanian state."64 Due to the sectarian character of the Syrian crisis, a Sunni-Shiite (Alawite) cleavage, the kingdom has attempted to avoid meddling in the internal affairs of its northern neighbor. The kingdom also monitors the engagement of Jordanian volunteers in the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra.65 One of the main spillover effects of the Syrian crisis is the spread of Salafi Islamist activism and the participation of Salafis in the war in Syria.66 The rise in such activism in Jordan is largely rooted in regional dynamics rather than being merely an internal phenomenon. Because of this, the insufficient political reforms and the rising socioeconomic tensions are exacerbating domestic instability.
Another important new facet of post-Arab Spring Jordan has been the activism of East Bank Bedouin, from whom the kingdom has historically acquired its legitimacy. For the time being, however, the public protests in the Jordanian streets have been claimed by the regime as sprouting from Jordanian-Palestinian divisions. This response reveals the recontextualization of Ikhwan-throne relations. It is a test of the "moderation-inclusion" approach, determining whether political inclusion applies only to moderates.
1 Shmuel Bar, The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan (The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1998), 19.
2 Shaul Mishal, West Bank/East Bank: Palestinians in Jordan: 1947–1967 (Yale University Press, 1978).
3 The regime has traditionally obtained its political support primarily from the southern provinces — Maan, Tafila and Karak — which are dominated by East Bank Jordanians (Bedouins).
4 Curtis R. Ryan and Jillian Schwedler, "Return to Democratization or a New Hybrid Regime?: The 2003 Elections in Jordan," Middle East Policy 11, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 138-151; and Curtis R. Ryan, "Political Opposition and Reform Coalitions in Jordan," British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 38, no. 3 (2011): 368.
5 Ellen Lust-Okar, "The Decline of Jordanian Political Parties: Myth or Reality?" International Journal of Middle East Studies 33 (2001): 545–569.
6 Jillian Schwedler, Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 65.
7 Bar, The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.
8 Quintan Wiktorowicz, The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan (State University of New York Press, 2001), 83, 95.
9 Bar, The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.
10 Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami was founded by Taqi al-Din Ibrahim Yusuf al-Nabahani in 1952. Al- Nabahani, who headed the group until his death in 1977, rejected unification with the Muslim Brotherhood and opted to create an Islamic Caliphate. When Hizb al-Tahrir asked for legalization from the Jordanian monarchy, the party's ideological background prevented Tahrir from becoming a political party, and its members were arrested. For more information, see Shmuel Bar (1998).
11 Author's interview with Toujan Faisal, Jordan's first women elected to parliament, November 10, 2010, Amman, Jordan.
12 Glenn E. Robinson, "Defensive Democratization in Jordan," International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 30 (1998): 399, 400–407.
13 Glenn E. Robinson, "Can Islamists Be Democrats: The Case of Jordan," Middle East Journal 51, no. 3 (1997).
14 Jillian Schwedler, "Cop Rock: Protest, Identity and Dancing Riot Police in Jordan," Social Movement Studies 4, no. 2 (2005): 165–66.
15 Scott Greenwood, "Jordan's New Bargain: The Political Economy of Regime Security," Middle East Journal 57, no. 2 (2003): 92.
16 Janine A. Clark, "The Conditions of Islamist Moderation: Unpacking Cross-Ideological Cooperation in Jordan," International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 38, no. 4 (2006): 539.
18 Janine A. Clark says, "Moderate Islamists often are defined as those who are willing to participate in the democratic system (even if their understanding of a democracy within a future Islamic state differs from the secular, liberal vision being introduced), whereas radical Islamists are deemed as those who reject participation largely due to their rejection of secularism," in "The Conditions of Islamist Moderation: Unpacking Cross-Ideological Cooperation in Jordan," 539-41.
19 Nazih Ayubi, Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World (Routledge, 1991), 98.
20 Mansoor Moaddel, Jordanian Exceptionalism: A Comparative Analysis of State-Religion Relationships in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, and Syria (Palgrave, 2002), 126.
21 Schwedler, 2006.
23 Robinson, 1998.
24 Asher Susser, "The Jordanian Monarchy: The Hashemite Success Story," in Middle East Monarchies: The Challenge of Modernity, ed. Joseph Kostiner (Lynne Rienner, 2000), 109. Note: Laith Shubailat was jailed for seven months in 1996 for publicly criticizing normalization with Israel.
25 Russell E. Lucas, Institutions and the Politics of Survval in Jordan: Domestic Challenges 1988 – 2001 (State University of New York Press, 2005), 90-113.
26 "Jordan's 9/11: Dealing with Jihadi Islamism," Middle East Report No. 47, International Crisis Group Report, November 23, 2005, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-ira….
27 Yitzhak Reiter, "The Palestinian-TransJordanian Rift: Economic Might and Political Power in Jordan," Middle East Journal 58, no. 1 (Winter 2004).
28 Curtis R. Ryan, "Identity, Politics, Reform, and Protest in Jordan," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 11, no. 3 (2011): 565.
29 Ibid., 566.
30CIA World Fact Book: Jordan (2007), 121.
31 Lucas, Institutions and the Politics of Survival in Jordan, 28-31.
32 Ibid., 28.
33 Ibid., 28 - 30. Emphasis is added.
34 Ibid., 113.
35 Ellen Lust-Okar, "Elections under Authoritarianism: Preliminary Lessions from Jordan," Democratization 13, no. 3 (2006): 461.
36 Lucas, Institutions and the Politics of Survival in Jordan, 90-113; and Russell E. Lucas, "Deliberalization in Jordan," Journal of Democracy 14, no. 1 (2003): 137-144.
37 Schwedler, 2006, 170.
38 Zaki Bani Irsheid, leader and former secretary-general of the IAF, interviewed by author, Amman, Jordan, November 9, 2010.
40 Curtis R. Ryan, "Security First: Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations and Foreign Policy under Abdullah II," Arab Studies Quarterly 26, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 43-62.
41 Juan Jose Escobar Stemmann, "The Crossroads of Muslim Brothers in Jordan," MERIA: Global Research in International Affairs Center, 2010, www.gloria-center.org/2010/03/escobar-2010-03-04/.
42 Oraib al-Rantawi, director of al-Quds Center for Political Studies, interviewed by author, Amman, Jordan, November 8, 2010.
43 Stemmann, 2010.
44 Muhammed Abu Rumman, "Jordan Elections and the Islamist Boycott," Daily Star, October 26, 2010, http://www.alarabiya.net/views/2010/10/27/123785.html.
46 Jillian Schwedler, "Jordan's Islamists Lose Faith in Moderation," Foreign Policy, 2010.
47 Muhammad Abu Rumman, "Jordan's Parliamentary Elections and the Islamist Boycott," October 20, 2010, http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/10/20/jordan-s-parliamentary-election….
48 Gudrun Kramer, "Integration of the Integrists," in Democracy without Democrats, ed. Ghassan Salamé (I.B. Tauris, 1994).
49 Interview with Zaki Bani Irsheid.
50 Muhammed Abu Rumman, "Jordan Elections and the Islamist Boycott," Daily Star, October 26, 2010, http://www.alarabiya.net/views/2010/10/27/123785.html.
51 Stemmann, 2010.
52 "Islamists Reject the Upcoming Poll," Al Ahram Weekly, July 19–25, 2012.
53 Jordan Times, July 11, 2012.
54 Asher Susser, "Is the Jordanian Monarchy in Danger?" Crown Center for Middle East Studies 72 (April 2013): 5.
55 "Protesters Call for End One-Person One-Vote Electoral System," Jordan Times, June 29, 2012, http://jordantimes.com/protesters-call-for-end-to-one-person-one-vote-e….
56 Khalil Al-Anani, "Islamist Parties Post-Arab Spring," Mediterranean Politics 17 no. 3 (2012): 467.
57 Adnan Abu Odeh, Palestinians, Jordanians and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East Peace Process (United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999).
58 Robert Satloff and David Schenker, "Political Instability in Jordan," Contingency Planning Memorandum No: 19, Council on Foreign Relations, May 2013.
59 "Hamza Mansour: ‘The Street is Not Calm,'" Aljazeera, January 28, 2013.
61 "Jordan Opposition Calls for Israel Peace Treaty to be Frozen over Al-Aqsa Debate," Guardian, February 25, 2014.
62 "Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (IX): Dallying with Reform in a Divided Jordan," Middle East/North Africa Report, no. 118, March 12, 2012.
64 "The Syrian Crisis in Jordan," Middle East Research and International Project, MERIP Report, June 24, 2013.
65 "Jordan's Protests: Rise of Salafi Jihadist Movement," BBC News, April 22, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13163870.
66 The key figure of the salafists in Jordan is Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, who was the spiritual mentor of slaughtered al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Maqdisi was imprisoned and tried in a military court on charges of recruiting people to join al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.