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Amman – For Dima Tahboub, 40, a candidate of the Islamic Action Front party, IAF, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Movement, Jordan needs a stronger parliament that can reflect people’s concerns and frustrations.
Tahboub is a member of an electoral coalition called the “National Coalition for Reform” that includes – besides Islamists like herself – Jordanian nationalists, Christians and members of other minority groups.
“Our Coalition will work to express the best interests of the public, not certain interest groups,” Tahboub said. “We will be in line with the national agendas of the people of Jordan,” added Tahboub during an interview with Al Jazeera at her house in al-Rasheed neighbourhood of Amman last week.
The coalition is fielding 120 candidates across the kingdom including 19 women.
Of 1,293 candidates competing for 130 seats in Jordan’s parliament, 82 percent are non-partisan. The Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist parties, while making a strong showing, have been fractured into smaller groups.
This year, Jordan made significant changes to its electoral law, replacing a controversial one-person-one-vote system with a list-based system designed to encourage political parties. The new law requires voters to pick from among pre-set lists of candidates – a system that could encourage stronger organising between candidates on ideological or party-based grounds.
But Tahboub says the changes have made the law all the more complicated both for voters and even candidates. “The current election law is designed by the government so as not to give any political group any majority seats in the parliament,” she explained. “This law, just like previous election laws, were made so confusing and complicated that no one – including some of those running for elections – understands them.”
The resulting votes, Tahboub added, will be calculated in various electoral districts based on complicated mathematical equations and certain calculations to determine who will win a seat in the next parliament.
Tahboub, a longtime advocate of women rights, voiced opposition to the quota system and wants women to compete on their own merit rather than being allocated one seat per province.
“This system is unfair to women, because, for example, it would give women in Amman with a population of four million – according to last year’s census – only one seat,” says Tahboub, who was recently appointed as a spokeswoman for the IAF.
Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the IAF, is known to be the most organised opposition movement, with a well-oiled political machine lacking in other political groups.
The current election law is designed by the government so as not to give any political group any majority seats in the parliament. This law, just like previous election laws, were made so confusing and complicated that no one understands it even some of those running for election.
Tensions between the government and the Brotherhood have escalated since the closure of the group’s branch last April.
In 2014, the Jordanian government issued a new law requiring all organisations and political parties to register or renew their licences. Following this development, in March 2015, about a dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood were expelled because they wanted the organisation to distance itself from its international affiliations.
They founded their own group, the government-licensed “Muslim Brotherhood Society”, which many believe has the backing of the Jordanian regime in order to undermine the original Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1945.
Tahboub agrees that winning some seats in the Parliament does not guarantee that her party will gain power or influence in passing any laws or repealing current one.
“Although we realise that the government has made up its mind on who will or will not be in the parliament, we decided, however, to join because of our moral and religious obligations, as an Islamist movement, to our supporters,” she said.
She says, however, that the Brotherhood’s decision to participate in the election was not a survival strategy, stressing that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to be part of the political system, not outside it.
Tahboub seems resigned to the notion that her party, if elected, will be content to only register their opposition to the laws that will be passed anyway. “We are thinking that this new parliament is designed to rubber-stamp laws and certain policies that will have serious political ramifications in the region.”
Tahboub argue that the Brotherhood only opposes certain policies of the regime, not the regime itself.
“During the Arab Spring protests in Jordan, the Islamic movement [the Muslim Brotherhood] has given the government many assurances that it does not advocate regime change. Instead, we wanted to reform the political system, without including the King or the royal family,” said Tahboub.
She thinks that her party stands a good chance to win between 20 and 30 seats out of 130 seats in total. Although 20 to 30 seats might constitute the largest bloc in the parliament, this is nowhere near having a majority to block the government from passing laws, let alone repealing old ones.
Despite that, Tahboub sounds motivated and hopeful. “We would propose laws to reform the state security court, and laws that will encourage domestic investment. We even might try to repeal previous laws such as the $15bn liquid gas agreement with Israel and the canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea,” she said.
“But if we ended up unable to do any of these, at least our constituency will see that we have tried to be their voice and the voice of justice in the parliament,” she added.
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