Jordan: Islamists Refuse Offer to Join Government

King Abdullah II followed Prime Minister Samir Rifai's resignation with the appointment of former PM Maarouf Bakhit, a Jordanian loyalist with military roots. While Islamists had called for Rifai's resignation or dismissal, they again reacted negatively to the King's choice, saying that Bakhit is incapable of undertaking political reform. The King met with opposition Islamist leaders, whose political demands include reforming Jordan's electoral law and ending Jordan's peace treaty with Israel. Jordan's 2010 electoral law implemented a system of virtual subdistricts which was confusing for voters, and kept district boundaries gerrymandered to heavily favor Bedouin areas over urban areas with large Palestinian-Jordanian populations.

After the meeting with the King, Islamist leaders indicated that the meetings had been ‘clear and candid,’ but that their protests against Bakhit would continue. Bakhit then went one step further and invited Islamists to participate in his newly formed cabinet, which the Islamists turned down. This turn of events sparked a discussion amongst Jordanian tweeters. Naseem Tarawnah began:

Bakhit asks Islamists to join his cabinet but they opt out. What a squandered opportunity! #REFORMJO #JO

Ali Abu-Nimah asked:

@tarawnah @jawazsafar Haven't they called for free elections based on a fair election law? That would be their test.

Tarawnah suggested:

@avinunu if they took up the offer they'd have had frontrow seats to actually shaping the election law. @JawazSafar

Ali Abu-Nimah argued that the Islamists would merely be legitimizing Bakhit's government without obtaining an real power.

@tarawnah @jawazsafar if I were them I would not. Responsibility without power is a losing game. More leverage outside for now.

Tarawnah retorted:

@avinunu only leverage they have is that of complaining they're not part of the process. that card gets burned when u turn down an invite.

Abu Nimah replied:

@tarawnah they are asking to be part of a transparent process with fair rules not a rigged one where they're given a role as a favor.

Abu-Nimah then referred to the 1991 government, in which several Muslim Brotherhood members held cabinet officers for a period of a few months, but were unable to execute their program of reform.

@tarawnah I am old enough to remember 1991 and so are they. Same game.

Abu-Nimah added:

@tarawnah Jordan is not yet a country where governments can decide policy independently or even against wishes of the monarch.

The discussion then centered on whether or not cabinet members have a serious role in shaping policy, and thus could shape a new election law through a presence in the cabinet. Tarawnah argued:

@avinunu wrong. vision shaped by king, policy shaped by govt. thats the way it works here.

Abu Nimah referred back to the Islamists, arguing:

@tarawnah they do not need to be in cabinet to help shape election law. Wielding executive power today has nothing to do with it.

And Mohammad Younes agreed with Abu Nimah:

@tarawnah isnt it kinda obvious that after 20+ years in Jordan governments rule is very minor in political reform? @avinunu

Additional Twitter conversations about Jordan's political future are taking place at #reformJo

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