Two very interesting articles today concerning Hamas. One is by Rami G. Khouri over at the Daily Star who looks at the oppertunity a Hamas win may bring. The other is from an Israeli perspective in the Jerusalem Post, and concerns what a Hamas win now means for Jordan and Egypt.
…Three key points seem important about Hamas’ victory. The first is that the election campaign was not a referendum on making war or peace with Israel. Hamas did not win because it promised to wipe out Israel. It won because it held out the promise of redressing some of the terrible imbalances and chaotic distortions that have come to define Palestinian domestic society in the past few years.
…The second important aspect of the election result is that Hamas will now experience the responsibility and accountability that come with incumbency
…The third important point about Hamas’ victory is that it represents a brand of political leadership legitimacy that has been rare in the modern Arab world. [article]
…the problem for Jordan and Egypt remains difficult. These are the countries that are friends of the US (and Israel) and are thus under the most pressure to follow the US plan of democratization. On the other hand, if they follow the path, they will be paving the way to their own downfall.
Hamas’s win legitimizes the Islamists in both Jordan and Egypt. Should those governments now accept Hamas and do business with it or should they act like Israel and the US, who (at this point) say they won’t talk to the terrorists? [article]
A Hamas win does pose an interesting dilemma for Jordan. Khalaf offers an analysis you can read up on here.
But there is another issue at hand here: a hamas win may mean a reverse in political reform, or at least having it come to a grinding halt. There is nothing more worrying for the Jordanian government than going on ahead with free elections which would result in Islamists running the country. But there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, if free elections were held Islamists would almost certainly win the most seats. However Jordan’s situation does have many other elements which Palestine does not face and those elements provide enough opposition to keep Islamists in check.
Second, I don’t see Jordanian Islamists, or rather groups which follow a pro-Islamic agenda such as the IAF, as being extremely right wing to the point of overthrowing anything. The are however a powerful force and are usually shot down for opposing things like corruption.
Third, the problem which may arise is that an Islamist government in Jordan will forever be in conflict with Jordan’s stance on Israel and the U.S. which implies to me that if political reform is to go ahead we would be looking at a system where an elected government in Jordan may not be allowed to deal with foreign policy, or at least have it be dictated by higher powers. How likely this scenario is just goes to show the dilemma we would be facing.
Fourth, and this is a reflection of the current status quo, Islamists are usually supported by the lower middle class on down. This means while they would be gaurenteed a position of majority based on the fact that 90% of the country can be classified as lower middle class on down, this majority would pose a huge problem for the upper middle class on up. If 10% of the country represent (say) 80% of the GDP, 80% of national income and top earners, 80% of investment, and 80% of what keeps the economy afloat, whilst their future will be governed by 90% of the country which is poor…well you can see the conflict of interest here.
One thing is for certain in my mind, a Hamas win, whether positive or negative for Palestine is most definitely a source of setbacks for political reform in Jordan. I expect to see us shifting gears fairly soon, but this time in the reverse position.