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Protests in Jordan Call for Reform

Amy Farina

Around a thousand Islamists demonstrated in Jordan’s capital on Friday marking the first protest since the January 23 elections. Protesters at the Muslim Brotherhood-organized rally, recited anti-government slogans and called for the government to step down.

“Reform is what is required. Justice and freedom and not these sham elections and deputies,” chanted the demonstrators as they walked from the Husseini mosque to downtown Amman. With many angered by corruption, most called for reforms and limits on the king’s power, not for the U.S.-backed monarch to be overthrown. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, demanded changes to the electoral law saying it results in unfair parliamentary representation. Although two-thirds of Jordanians live in cities where the Muslim Brotherhood has a strong presence, the urban areas are allocated less than a third of the seats in Parliament.

A protester shouts slogans during a demonstration to demand political reforms after Friday prayers in Amman on February 22, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Leading up to the elections there were protests against the current political system with violent incidents in Maan, Tafileh, and Amman. To subdue these protests, the king delegated some of his powers before dissolving parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the election and claimed that the king’s plans for a parliamentary government did not constitute true democratic change.

Overall, the biggest winners were loyalists to King Abdullah who received the majority of parliamentary seats. The final election results showed that the 150-seat lower house of parliament would include 30 members from the previous parliament in addition to 70 tribal leaders.

Jordan faces continuing political unrest over the slow pace of promised reforms, increasing prices of fuel, and 850,000 refugees crossing from Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama are expected to visit Jordan this spring where protests challenge one of the United State’s closest regional allies.