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Jordanian Islamists absence creates a chance for the leftists

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

The absence of Jordan’s Islamists has tempted some leftists to fill the political vacuum left by the kingdom’s largest and most organized opposition force, analysts argued, casting doubt on the ability of the left-wing to form an influential opposition force in the next parliament.

In remarks to Al Arabiya English, political analysts explained that with Jordanians growing weary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “contradictory discourse” and its internal disputes, some leftist leaders have decided to run for the 23 parliamentary elections individually or on national lists, having seen a strong winning opportunity provided by the absence of their traditional rivals, the Islamists.

The Islamists in Jordan have long embraced the state’s policies but this relationship has changed dramatically over the past ten years. They have grown more radical, demanding wider participation in the decision-making process

Raed Omari
For Mohamed Abu Rumman, the leftists are incapable of filling the political void left by the Islamists, expressing doubts over the ability to form a “systematic and full-fledged opposition.”

“The leftists in Jordan are fragmented and also suffer from internal conflicts and that make them unable to fill the vacuum left by the Islamists,” Abu Rumman said.

He also explained that Jordanian leftist parties have been unable to work collaboratively and have failed to present themselves as a coherent and organized political force as if they share no similar ideology unlike the Islamists who, despite their internal and undisclosed disputes, have cunningly showed themselves in full harmony.

“This also has had negative impact on their dynamism and ability to play an influential opposition role.”

Abu Rumman also explained that the Jordanian leftists have been unable to be rivals to and competitors against the Islamists.

Opposition bloc

On their decision to participate in the election, Abu Rumman indicated that the current leftist figures and lists were very few in numbers and less expected to form a large opposition bloc, expecting them to win no more than two or three seats in the next Chamber of Deputies.

In addition to leftist candidates running for the parliamentary election, some leftists and pan-Arab parties have formed a national list led by former deputy, Abla Abu Olbeh, secretary general of the Jordanian Democratic People’s Party, referred to in Jordan as (Hashed).

The list combines candidates affiliated to Arab Socialist Baath Party, the Arab Progressive Baath Party and the National Movement for Direct Democracy.
Former MP Mustafa Shneikat is leading a leftist coalition running for the election under the “People’s List.”
Combined together under what they called themselves “Ploughmen’s Successors List,” a group of leftists decided to run for election.

Former leftist municipalities minister, Hazem Qashou, is also leading a list running for the elections.

“No matter what, neither the leftists nor any other political force will be able to replace the Islamists. The opposition seat in parliament will remain vacant,” Abu Rumman said.
Jordan’s National Current Party, led by veteran politician Abdul Hadi Al Majali and his kinsman Amjad Al Majali’s Unified Front Party are also, according to Abu Rumman, far from being able to act as an influential opposition forces.

The two politicians formed lists under their parties’ names and are running for Wednesday’s election.

He also explained that the two parties are “somewhat” the strongest political coalitions and are expected to win a considerable number of seats in the next 17th parliament more than the leftists but “cannot act as opposition.”

“It can’t be that the National Current Party and the Jordanian Unified Front Party can act as opposition forces inside the parliament based on the former’s allegiances and strong ties with the government and the contradictory words and actions of the latter,” he said.
Both Abdul Hadi Al Majali and Amjad Al Majali were former ministers, best known for their conservative mentalities.

Oraib Rentawi of Al Quds Center for Political Studies also expressed the same point of view, saying that the Islamists’ absence was an “alluring thing” for the leftists to arise.
Rentawi went further as accusing some leftists of allying with authorities against the Islamists.

“Being long subjugated by the Islamists and allured by their absence and unsettled disputes, some leftists have been presenting themselves as allies with the government, defending its causes and adopting its discourse,” Rentawi said.

With astonishment, Rentawi said that some leftists have turned “so conservative” recently, speaking as if “more royalist than the king himself” when they declared their complete rejection of the constitutional monarchy.

To support his rationale, Rentawi quoted King Abdullah when he recently told a French newspaper that his son [Crown Prince Hussein] will inherit a monarchy unlike the one he inherited from his father [late king Hussein].

Leftists and Islamists

It happened more than one time during sessions of the previous dissolved parliament that several leftists expressed anger at the Islamists, with several of them saying the same sentence, “At the time leftists were in jails, the Islamists were in good terms with authorities.”

Renatwi in addition said that leftists in Jordan have turned right-wing, using a new discourse that is alien to their ideology which lies at the heart of communism.

“We have not seen the leftists making themselves die-hard champions of people’s causes, condemning the government’s decision to lift subsidy on fuel prices,” he said.

Similarly, Rentawi cast doubt on the ability of the leftists to strong a real opposition; “indeed if this is their intention,” also expecting them to gain a very few number of seats.

“Aside from the regrettable change in their ideology, the leftists cannot form an influential and systematic opposition force simply because they are not expected to win a big number of seats,” he said.

Many observers in Jordan believe that the former leftist deputy and current minister of political development, Bassam Haddin, is trying to replace the traditional allegiance between Jordanian governments and the Islamists with the leftists.

The Islamists in Jordan have long embraced the state’s policies but this relationship has changed dramatically over the past ten years. They have grown more radical, demanding wider participation in the decision-making process.

The Islamists, having seen their brothers taking power in Tunis, Morocco then Egypt, have become more demanding, raising unfamiliar slogans such as “elected governments” and “constitutional monarchy.”

According to a leftist figure, who is a parliamentary candidate at the district level, the majority of Jordanians still have worries about the leftist ideology, mainly due to their conservative mentality.

The candidate, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that many Jordanians believe that the leftists have direct contacts with the Syrian regime and that makes them unwilling to support them.

(Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2)

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.