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Islamists lose 26-year grip over engineers syndicate

By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - May 05,2018 - Last updated at May 05,2018

AMMAN — The election loss of Islamists at the largest and most influential professional association has triggered a debate on whether a new era has started, with the ousted unionists left behind. 

The results of Friday’s elections to choose the president, deputy president and council members of Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) marked a “historical” change in the association as Islamists lost elections for the first time in 26 years, activists and engineers agreed. 

Ahmad Samara Zu’bi from Numou (growth) ticket beat his rival for presidency Abdullah Obeidat with 7,933 votes, while Fawzi Musid was elected vice president with 7,717 votes, and their alliance won five of the remaining nine seats, the Jordan News Agency, Petra reported on Saturday. 

The Islamists, who allied with independents, were defeated in the elections for two major reasons, said Omar Kullab, a political commentator and a columnist in remarks to The Jordan Times on Saturday. 

The first is that the Muslim Brotherhood has been losing ground at the regional level during the past few years. 

The second is that the performance of those who ruled the JEA has been criticised for focusing on politics and neglecting the profession and the interests of JEA’s 150,000 members.

Only 15,000 of the 60,000 eligible members took part in the vote, according to Petra. Thousands of engineers have jobs abroad, especially in Gulf states, while there is a significant number of members who do not pay their subscriptions and so are banned from candidacy or voting. 

“People have lost confidence in the Islamists’ ability to rule; take Egypt as an example,” said Kullab, adding that Islamists have exhibited a “negative model of governance”.

Controlling JEA for decades, they neglected professionalism and the interests of engineers, focusing on affairs that are not of the members’ concern, Kullab claimed.

During this election, the ballot boxes exposed their everlasting “superiority complex”, as all neglected segments and regions such as the remote governorates gave a “big nay” to them, he said. 

“Even their ‘west Jordanian vote reservoir’ in the capital said no to them,” according to Kullab, in reference to their supporters among Jordanians of Palestinian origin. 

Kullab commended Numou for its inclusiveness. 

“The Islamists have politicised the syndicate and adopted an exclusive approach which has led disillusioned members to seek a ‘neutral’ group that would be open to pluralism and inclusion”, Fakher Daas, a unionist said.

“They have been running with the syndicate out of absolute power with a blind self confidence,” the activist told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Obviously the winners have reached all segments across the Kingdom, especially young people, he added.

An engineer, who preferred to stay unnamed, said that she participated in the polls, but she wrote “none” on the ballot.

“For the Islamists, they have failed to do the job, while for Numou, I will absolutely vote for them next time if they proved capable as an alternative,” she explained.   

In a JEA post on Facebook announcing the results, members expressed delight over the “big change”, calling for improving the profession’s affairs and fixing “accumulative” issues. 

Tarik Arabi, a Facebook user, called on the new council to find jobs for engineers and seek to reduce the numbers of would-be engineers to be proportionate to the labour market’s demand. 

Arabi concluded that “it does not matter who took over, what matter are achievements and services for members”.  

In a number of separate statements by Islamists, they accused authorities of interfering in the elections’ outcome.  

Spokesperson for the Islamic Action Front party, Murad Adaileh, rejected as baseless the accusation of politicising the administration of the JEA, stressing that Islamist unionists have made considerable achievements, including a growth in the assets of the pension fund from JD12 million in 1992 to JD350 million this year. 

He wished luck for the winners, urging them to prove that they are worth of the victory.

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