Muslim Brotherhood leader fears Jordan elections will be rigged

#InsideJordan

Zaki Bani Rsheid says gerrymandering 'is something in which Jordanian officials have excellent experience', as voters head to polls

Zaki Bani Rsheid votes in Tuesday's election (supplied)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 25 October 2016 15:38 UTC
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A senior leader of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood branch told MEE on Tuesday that he does not trust the authorities to run the kingdom's election in a free and fair manner.

Zaki Bani Rsheid, a deputy leader, said his organisation's political wing - the Islamic Action Front - decided to take part in the parliamentary election despite concerns over fairness.

"Manipulating elections is something in which Jordanian officials have excellent experience," he said. "Every time there is a new development, they use all their tools of power and influence."

Rsheid accused Jordanian authorities of having previously used the identities of dead citizens to rig elections in the kingdom, which is ruled by King Abdullah II.

Despite these concerns Rsheid defended the Islamic Action Front's decision to take part in the vote. It is the first time in nine years the group has competed for parliamentary seats after having boycotted the past two elections.

The Islamic Action Front decided to take part, he said, after holding an internal referendum in which 80 percent of members voted in favour of participation.

Rsheid claimed other political movements were also calling on the Muslim Brotherhood to enter the country’s parliament in order to “reactivate political life in Jordan”.

Rsheid said the vision of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings - when people across the region called for greater political accountability and participation - meant that his group must take part to further the cause of increased democracy in Jordan.

“I don’t think what happened in Egypt and other countries is the end of the journey,” he said, referring to the 2013 popularly backed military coup that unseated Egypt's first democratically elected president. “We must continue the popular path toward the popular will.

“Despite all attempts to uproot, exclude and marginalise it, events have proven that the Islamist movement is a reality that represents a section of Arab and Islamic societies, and it cannot be bypassed."

One of the reasons the IAF boycotted the 2010 and 2013 elections was to protest against the electoral system, which it said weakened parties in favour of tribal and other pro-government candidates.

The law was changed for this election cycle, replacing a one-person-one-vote system with a list-based system that aimed to encourage political parties to participate.

“The important thing is that the elections are clean, transparent, and free from fraud,” he said, dismissing the importance of the number of seats they could win. “We will of course accept the people’s will and the results of the ballot boxes, regardless of the number of seats we are able to obtain in parliament.”



Photo supplied by Zaki Bani Rsheid shows him voting in Tuesday's elections

Rsheid has personally experienced the brunt of Jordan’s security forces, having been sentenced to 18 months in prison for criticising the United Arab Emirates’ decision to blacklist the Muslim Brotherhood in its territory. He was only released from prison in January.

He told MEE that the Muslim Brotherhood should be viewed as an important movement in the kingdom, as he claimed it has played a role in nullifying the presence of the Islamic State group.

“The presence of Daesh is limited by the moderation of the Islamist movement and the moderation of the Jordanian people’s attitudes,” he told MEE. using the group's Arabic acronym. “But the problem is that a security mind-set is taking precedence over a political one.

“These security factions may even need it (Daesh) to justify deepening their influence, and for this reason target forces of moderation."

Rsheid was also keen to stress that the IAF does not approve of Jordan's close relationship with Israel, including opposing the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, known in Arabic as the Wadi Araba Treaty.

“It is obvious that we do not agree with the Wadi Araba Treaty from the beginning, and we do not recognise any relations with the Zionist entity on any level, whether it be security, political or economic,” he said. “This is the vision that determines our path and direction.”