Jordan parliamentary vote set for September
AMMAN - Jordan announced Thursday it would hold parliamentary elections on September 20, but the Muslim Brotherhood-backed main opposition party said it had not yet decided whether to take part.
Previously tolerated for decades in Jordan, the Brotherhood's relations with the authorities have been rocky since the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the region in 2011.
A source in the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood's main political wing in Jordan, told AFP that the party "will hold a meeting on Saturday to decide its position" on participating in the poll.
The party, which boycotted elections in 2010 and 2013, demands more transparency and reform to an electoral system it says favours tribal candidates.
Although it enjoys strong grassroots support, the Brotherhood has faced increasing pressure from authorities in recent years.
Its second-in-command in Jordan, Zaki Bani Rsheid, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in February last year for criticising a decision by the United Arab Emirates to blacklist the organisation. He was released in January.
In early March last year the government licensed a breakaway group known as the Muslim Brotherhood Association, prompting accusations it was exploiting internal rifts to weaken the group.
Jordanian authorities view the Brotherhood as an illegal organisation because its licence was not renewed in accordance with a political parties law adopted in 2014.
In mid-April this year, authorities shut seven of the organisation's offices for failing to obtain permission to operate.
But an all-out crackdown would risk fanning discontent among the opposition at a time when the kingdom is battling jihadists in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
The Jordanian branch of the Brotherhood has fared better than others in the region in recent years.
In Egypt -- where the Islamist group was formed in 1928 -- it has been blacklisted as a "terrorist group" and the authorities have cracked down hard on its members, including ousted president Mohamed Morsi who has been sentenced to death.
Hundreds of Morsi's supporters have been killed and tens of thousands jailed since he was ousted by the army in 2013.
Other governments in the region, particularly the Gulf monarchies, are also deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grassroots activism and political Islam could undermine their authority.
The Jordanian authorities recently amended the electoral law, increasing the number of members of parliament from 130 to 150 and reserving 15 seats for women.