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Hamza Mansour: 'The street is not calm'

One of the leaders of Jordan's Islamic opposition explains why the country's political system needs to change.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2013 08:42

Jordanians went to the polls to vote for a new parliament, but underneath the surface there is tension.

Protests across Jordan have led the country into political unrest, and two years into the Arab Spring people are still calling for reform and democracy.

In November 2012, subsidy cuts on fuel and food seemed to be the last straw for people fed up with corruption and alleged abuses by security services.

"I think that the king is required now more than ever to intervene and express a sort of political will."

- Sheikh Hamza Mansour, Jordan's Islamic Action Front leader

Thousands took to the streets across the country, even tribal areas long seen as loyal to the king were mobilised. And the world heard chants against the monarch for the very first time.

Supporters of the king say the elections that were held this week will usher the country into a new and more open political era. But opponents of the regime are not buying it.

Although parliamentarians and not the king will select the prime minister, the new election law announced last July is controversial.

The new parliament is divided between 108 local seats and 27 for national parties. That means that no matter how much support national parties have in the country they will always be in the minority.

There are also complaints about the distribution of seats for local candidates. Tribal districts loyal to the king get more seats than their population density might suggest.

Criticism of the election law has been especially fierce from leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. And the political arm of the Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front, along with other national parties boycotted the elections saying the election law has stacked things against the opposition.

When we spoke to Abdullah Ensour, the Jordanian prime minister, he told us the opposition was making a mistake:

“In the street and in demonstrations you express your opinion but the decision making to change laws and to make amendments to the constitution it has to be done by the parliament and if you are not part of parliament, how can you impose on future parliamentarians to amend the constitution and the bylaws the way you want them to. How democratic is this?”

The Islamic Action Front is led by Sheikh Hamza Mansour, a staunch critic of the election law. He says the new parliament will never represent the will of the people. And he is worried that unless the government does more to reach out to the opposition, the situation could get out of control.

To examine Jordan’s parliamentary future and the issues behind the controversial election law, Sheikh Hamza Mansour, the Islamic Action Front leader, talks to Al Jazeera.

"We need constitutional reforms and we need to change the election law .... The current elections law is specifically designed to bring a majority for those who look out for personal and factional interests, a majority that follows the regime and abides by the Jordanian security authorities' orders .... The next parliament will never be able to change the election laws. A parliament, born from the womb of a notorious law that is unprecedented in any democratic country, will never represent the people or achieve their ambitions.

"The street is not calm. The popular movement is going on, justified and supported by the constitution and the international agreements and conventions. The next parliament will be miserable .... The street can indeed make the change. The street has made the change elsewhere and made some changes here as well.

"We need reforms under the umbrella of the monarchy,  the constitutional monarchy, the parliamentary monarchy as stated in our constitution .... We believe, in the Islamic Action Party and generally in the Islamic movement, in reforming the regime and not changing the regime or imposing a revolution. But if things continue as they are, then things may get out of hand - not by us but perhaps by others."

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430.

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