AMMAN — As the political scene in Egypt continues to unfold, the Muslim Brotherhood movement’s leaders in Jordan struggle to disassociate themselves from their Egyptian peers, advocating a narrative focused on the so-called “Moroccan option” for reform rather than the Egyptian scenario.
Last week, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared unilaterally that until a new constitution is decreed all presidential decisions would be immune from legal challenge, triggering a wave of protests across the country, and setting him on course for a showdown with Egypt’s judges as well as other political rivals.
Several demonstrations, strikes and sit-ins have been planned to protest against the decision, with thousands thronging Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square on Tuesday to call for rescinding the decree.
Mohammad Abu Rumman, a columnist and a specialist in Islamist movements, said the image of the Islamists was negatively affected by the developments in Egypt, especially that the local state-owned media outlets have used the situation in Egypt to highlight what they see as Muslim Brotherhood’s greed for power.
“Some of the local media questioned their [Islamists] credibility and their ability to rule democratically and address problems facing society amidst the economic difficulties the country is going through,” Abu Rumman said.
“What is happening in Egypt stirred domestic criticism and made some people sceptic as opposed to supportive of the Islamists in their demands,” he told The Jordan Times.
“Their narrative has been shaken and become weaker, and they are now trying to unify their voices and defend their calls as a moderate voice that is only seeking circulation of power rather than controlling the decision-making process,” the analyst said.
Going from being an opposition power to a ruling party might also reveal the Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front as a political party that has no experience in ruling, Abu Rumman argued.
This could backfire on the party, undermine the Islamists’ credibility among their supporters and give more clout to their opponents, he added. That is exactly what happened in Egypt, and the people here are fearful it would happen in Jordan should the Islamists make it to the helm of power, Al Ghad columnist said.
But despite the dramatic events in Egypt, Abu Rumman said, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Jordan continue to reiterate their demands to apply the Moroccan scenario, where Islamist party leaders formed the government after winning a majority of parliamentary seats, rather than the Egyptian option in terms of the political reform they have been calling for.
“They have made it clear that they did not and will not adopt the slogan calling for the downfall of the regime and that they only want to reform the regime,” Abu Rumman said, adding that the Islamists are aware of the sensitivity of the local political scene and that the Monarchy remains a safety valve for a united society.
“Indeed what is happening in Egypt is giving a bad image to the Muslim Brotherhood and their policies,” a political activist and a member of the centrist National Current Party said on condition of anonymity.
“It is telling people that they are seeking unlimited power to implement their agenda, and they neither respect the agreements with their partners nor the institutions and existing laws,” he said.
“This is a cause of worry for Jordanians as well, as the Muslim Brotherhood insists on having absolute power through a ‘tailor-made’ elections law which gives them a comfortable majority in Parliament,” the activist said.
He added that the Islamists keep insisting on changing Articles 34, 35 and 36 in the Constitution to limit the authority of the King and “guarantee that they will keep power for years to come”.
“Comparing what is going on there and here, it seems that they are following the same games for the sake of power, which means that they are getting orders from a higher authority, i.e. the International General Executive Office. I think that this body has a regional plan to grab power in most Arab countries, and each branch is working towards this goal by all means possible,” he charged.
Agreeing with Abu Rumman’s analysis, former MP Mamdouh Abbadi said Morsi’s approach of ruling gave the people an idea of the Islamist ideology should they assume power here, adding that no matter how organised a political party can be, their actions can affect their reputation whether negatively or positively.
Citing a recent meeting of more than 60 political activists from an Islamist background last week, in which they indirectly criticised the Muslims Brotherhood’s intransigence in boycotting the upcoming elections, Abbadi argued that there is a significant breakdown within the Brotherhood’s ranks.
“This new grouping gives an impression of significant differences within the movement, which made some of them resort to launching a moderate voice that calls for reason,” he said, adding that the Brotherhood will remain an important component of the political and social fabric, but in the end it is the country’s interests that will override any other objective.
Ad Dustour columnist Batir Wardam said the image of Islamists in Jordan is based on passion more than critical examination.
“If you are a supporter and an affiliate with them you will always remain so regardless of the circumstances,” he told The Jordan Times.
“Even a decision like Morsi’s can be interpreted in a positive way, and the reactions could be considered a conspiracy against Islamists. For those who are against them, this will be a strong tool for naming and shaming their thirst for power and will certainly affect the general image of Islamist in Jordan,” Wardam said.
However, he noted that the majority of people will follow the events with curiosity and confusion and would simply see it as a struggle for power which could also happen in Jordan.
“It is difficult to determine the exact outcome on people in Jordan, but this is a case of damaging credibility, to a certain extent.”