Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood loses control of powerful union after 26 years

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood loses  control of powerful union after 26 years
Jordanians rally against US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, on Dec. 29, 2017, in Amman. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood loses control of powerful union after 26 years

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood loses  control of powerful union after 26 years
  • Lamis Andoni, a veteran Jordanian columnist told Arab News that the results could be the beginning of a new era.
  • he importance of the union result is that it reflects a change in all governorates in Jordan.

AMMAN: The switch of control after 26 years of Brotherhood dominance of the union follows a series of losses, including control of the main teachers union and a poor showing in the student council elections. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has lost control of one of Jordan’s largest labor unions in the latest blow to the movement.

Members of the powerful Engineers Union voted for a coalition of Arab nationalists, liberals and independents instead of the Islamist list, according to the final results announced early on Saturday.

The switch of control after 26 years of Brotherhood dominance of the union follows a series of losses, including control of the main teachers union and a poor showing in the student council elections. It comes two days after Zaki Bani Irshid, a controversial senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, lost the leadership fight in the Islamic Action Committee, the movement’s political arm in Jordan.

Mohammad Hussayni, director of the Amman-based Hawiya (Identity) Center, told Arab News that the loss of the Engineers Union reflected the Islamists’ internal problems.

“They have been having some big internal problems and splits which have a clear reflection on their abilities to mobilize,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has dominated politics and unions in Jordan for decades, where it was tolerated by the monarchy and in some cases members of Parliament served in the Cabinet.

Relations with the group deteriorated after an extremist attack on hotels in Amman in 2005 and the rise to senior positions within the movement of Irshid, a hard-liner within the group.

Things became more tense after the Arab Spring as Islamist groups in neighboring countries rose to power on the back of the chaos. In 2016, the government banned the Brotherhood and licensed another branch of the movement under a different leadership. 

Lamis Andoni, a veteran Jordanian columnist and a long-time observer of Jordanian professional unions, told Arab News that the results could be the beginning of a new era.

“It reflects the end of the domination of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, which had a huge political and professional effect on local politics for years,” she said.

The importance of the union result is that it reflects a change in all governorates in Jordan and not just the capital Amman, Andoni said. The Brotherhood have traditionally performed strongest in the many conservative regional governorates.

The union results showed that the Numou (growth) list captured seven out of the ten seats, winning decisively in all major governorates including the capital. Bashar Tarawneh, a member of Numou, told Arab News that the success of the movement had to do with increasing voter participation, especially among the youth.

“We took it upon ourselves to visit every governorate in Jordan and we encouraged everyone to vote in these elections,” he said.

More than 14,000 union members voted in the election — 3,000 more than in previous rounds, Tarawneh said. Khaled Ramadan, a member of the Jordanian Parliament and a union activist, told Arab News that the change did not necessarily reflect a retraction of the Muslim Brotherhood but more that the Numou movement has energized young members on a national basis. 

“Look at the number of votes that the Islamists received this round and in previous rounds and you will see that the level of their support hasn’t changed.”

Zeid Nabulsi, an Amman-based lawyer, said the result showed that the silent majority had woken up in Jordan. 

He said that this was due to both the declining fortunes of Islamist groups in countries such as Egypt and Syria and the impact of the digital revolution on young people “which has exposed the Islamists for their real motives.”

Nabulsi, however, argued that Islamists were still a powerful political force in Jordan, particularly in their stronghold of Zarqa.

He warned that activists should not let up in their struggle against what he called “the forces of darkness.”


UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 58 min 59 sec ago

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”