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Mashaal meets Jordan Brotherhood leaders amid election boycott

July 1, 2012 7:25 P.M. (Updated: July 2, 2012 2:34 P.M.)
AMMAN, Jordan (Ma'an) -- Exiled Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal met Saturday with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Jordan, after the movement threatened to boycott upcoming Jordanian elections in protest of a new voting law.

Mashaal met with party leaders at the home of Jordanian Brotherhood chief Hammam Said in Amman, Jordanian daily Al-Ghad said.

While Brotherhood leaders refused to discuss the meeting, Al-Ghad said the summit discussed whether the Brotherhood's political party, the Islamic Action Front, will participate in the poll later this year.

The meeting came the day after the Brotherhood participated in the funeral of a Hamas leader killed in Damascus was held in Jordan, and as Egypt Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi was sworn in as the country's first Islamist president.

Hamas, originally founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, won Palestine's last parliamentary elections and greeted Mursi's victory with jubilation.

Hamas had encouraged the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to participate in 2010 elections, but the group decided to stay out of the running in protest at electoral regulations they say prejudice the vote at their expense.

The Brotherhood has threatened to boycott new elections expected later this year after the Jordanian parliament passed a new electoral law last week.

The law allocates only 17 seats to candidates contested by parties in a proposed 140-seat assembly while magnifying the voting clout of native Jordanian constituencies whose voting power far outweighs voters in urban cities, where most of the country's seven million citizens of Palestinian origin reside.

It leaves intact a division of seats that grossly underrepresented the largely Palestinian dominated cities, which are Islamic strongholds in favor of sparsely populated rural tribal and Bedouin areas -- the bedrock of support for the Hashemite dynasty.

Jordan's King Abdullah instructed parliament on Thursday to reconvene next month to amend the law "to ensure wider political representation on the level of the nation," a palace statement said.

The monarch urged parliamentarians to boost the number of seats set aside for political parties, in a clear gesture to the Islamists.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it is not turning its back on parliamentary democracy but protesting what it says is an erosion of democratic gains that has made elections meaningless.

"The motive behind passing the law is to continue to maintain a monopoly on power and to deprive people of their right of choosing a legislature that expresses their will," Sheikh Hamza Mansour, head of the Islamic Action Front, said.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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