Islamists reject gov’t posts | Editor's Choice | Ammon News

Islamists reject gov’t posts

[10/23/2011 12:00:00 AM]

By Taylor Luck

THE ISLAMIST MOVEMENT on Saturday announced that it has turned down posts in the new government, ending days of speculation and rejecting the overtures of Prime Minister-designate Awn Khasawneh.

Islamic Action Front (IAF) Secretary General Hamzah Mansour announced yesterday that Islamists will pass on the opportunity to take part in a government for the first time since 1991.

Mansour’s announcement comes amidst reports of a sharp division within the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), over whether Islamists could best advance their reform agenda from within or outside the next government.

Although senior leaders of the movement downplayed any internal divisions, they admitted that members engaged in a “spirited” debate before deciding to turn down the invitation extended by Khasawneh.

In a marathon session that ran into late Friday night, the Islamist movement’s dual executive committees examined the potential impact of members of the Muslim Brotherhood serving in the new Cabinet.

IAF politburo head Zaki Bani Rsheid, who has long been considered a leading voice within the movement against greater cooperation with the government, said that after discussing Khasawneh’s strategy, the movement concluded the two sides were “apart” over reform demands.

“In the sense that the Prime Minister-designate could actually deliver on all our demands, I don’t believe we’ve reached the same page,” Bani Rsheid said.

In their talks with Khasawneh, the Islamists set demands similar to the preconditions placed on their participation in the municipal polls: constitutional reform guaranteeing an elected government, dissolution of Parliament, an elected Senate, an elections law based on nationwide proportional representation and a provision protecting the Lower House from early dissolution.

Members of the movement said they are unwilling to back down from reform demands they claim have remained consistent for nearly a year, noting that they declined to participate in the outgoing government of Marouf Bakhit on similar grounds.

“We appreciated the invitation, it is a positive step. But we have to be sure that this government will be in line with the demands of the people before we can move any further,” explained Jamil Abu Baker, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman.

Muslim Brotherhood and IAF executive committees had convened to discuss the outcome of a meeting late Thursday between senior Islamist leaders and Khasawneh at the prime minister-designate’s Jabal Amman residence.

Bani Rsheid, who was present at the meeting, referred to the proceedings as “positive” and “constructive”, noting that Khasawneh outlined his government’s reform mandate and senior members of the Islamist movement reiterated their reform demands.

A third source close to the proceedings confirmed that while specific ministerial portfolios were not discussed in the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Islamists stressed that they would not accept “token posts” in the upcoming government and insisted on holding “sensitive files”.

While declining to take part in the Cabinet, Islamists pledged to offer their future support for the Khasawneh government in its reform drive.

“As long as the government takes real steps to democratic, comprehensive political reform, we will support him,” Bani Rsheid said.

However, a source said that the Islamists even suggested names from outside the group as candidates for the new Cabinet make-up.

Upon his appointment last week, Khasawneh announced his commitment to involving all political and social factions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Kingdom’s largest opposition group, in the government.

The former International Court of Justice vice president is expected to announce his Cabinet on Monday.

* Jordan Times

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