Political Dissent and Repression

Jordan Table of Contents

All political parties were banned in 1957 and have been illegal since the establishment of martial law in 1967. In addition, Marxist-oriented parties were forbidden under the Anti-Communist Law of 1953. Evidence of illegal political activity is monitored by the Mukhabarat, or secret police. Persons suspected of engaging in political activities are arrested by the Mukhabarat and may be detained without charges for prolonged periods. In 1989 several Jordanian political parties existed in exile and were believed to have many secret sympathizers and underground cells operating in Jordan. These parties included the Arab Constitutionalist Party, the Communist Party of Jordan, the Palestine Communist Party, the Islamic Liberation Party, the National Jordanian Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Unionist Democratic Association. In addition, the various Palestinian guerrilla organizations clandestinely recruited in the refugee camps.

Up to mid-1989, observers concluded that the Mukhabarat continued to be generally effective in discouraging the expression of political dissent or political activities within Jordan. It remained unclear how extensive the political liberalization inaugurated in the summer of 1989 would become and what role the Mukhabarat would have. It was also uncertain how greater tolerance of dissident views would affect political groups outside the country. As late as 1988, several Jordanian and Palestinian political groups engaged in terrorism directed against Jordanian officials and government offices. The Black September group, formed by Palestinians to avenge the Jordanian army attack on Palestinian guerrilla bases in Jordan in September 1970, remained committed to the overthrow of the Hashimite monarchy. Throughout the 1980s, it claimed responsibility for assassinations of Jordanian diplomats in various cities of Asia and Western Europe; in 1988 it claimed responsibility for several bombings that took place in Amman.

Although the government did not officially permit the banned political parties to participate in the fall campaign for the November 1989 House of Representatives elections, it ignored the claims of many candidates that they actually represented such parties. The campaign for the eighty contested seats was relatively free of voter intimidation, with the Mukhabarat keeping an uncharacteristically low profile. A total of 647 candidates took part, including several former political prisoners who were released from detention in the summer. The Muslim Brotherhood supported twenty-six candidates, of whom twenty actually won seats. Candidates affiliated with other Islamist groups won an additional fourteen seats. Thus, Islamists emerged as the largest bloc in Parliament, controlling more than 42 percent of the seats. Candidates representing various secular parties opposed to the government won a total of ten seats. As a result, the House of Representatives convened with a majority of forty-four members upon whom the government could not count for support, thirty-three government supporters, and three seats to be determined.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress