Jordan's mainstream Islamists to stand in Nov parliamentary election

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Jordan's main opposition Islamist party said on Monday it will run in its November parliamentary election to prevent a packing of the assembly with pro-government deputies and advance demands for democratic reform and a crackdown on corruption.

But the Islamists, who are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and boycotted elections for a decade until 2016, warned they could reconsider its approach if its candidates came under state pressure to drop out.

"We call on the government to lift its grip over these elections in all its aspects," said Murad al Adailah, general secretary of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.

He said any repeat of irregularities that had marred previous elections would stoke public discontent as Jordan grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Meddling in these elections is playing with security and stability of the country...In such conditions, it would create a social explosion," Adailah said. "We don't accept any pressure from anyone, or a diktat as to whom we nominate or don't."

Analysts say electoral laws that favour tribal areas rather than cities, where Islamists enjoy most support, mean they are unlikely to dominate the vote, but they could still shake up Jordan’s sclerotic political scene.

The Islamists' comeback in the 2016 election, when they gained 16 of parliament's 130 seats as part of a broad civic alliance, ended a decade of boycott that had reduced voting to nominal contests between tribal leaders, establishment figures and independent businessmen.

Adailah said an Islamist voice was needed in parliament to help expose rampant corruption and stand up to tough laws restricting public freedoms as well as oppose any normalisation deals with Israel, with which Jordan has a peace treaty.

Jordan came close to banning the Brotherhood in recent years in what the Islamists said was a settling of scores over their instigation of protests seeking democratic reforms that would limit the powers of pro-Western King Abdullah.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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