Amman: Thousands of Jordanians rallied on Friday to call for a boycott of upcoming legislative elections, a challenge to King Abdullah II who has promoted a parliament-centered reform process to stave off an Arab Spring uprising in his country.
The protest in downtown Amman was the largest in nearly 22 months of weekly protests in Jordan. It is meant to show that the king`s critics can push for change through the streets, rather than through a legislature that critics say in its current form is too beholden to the monarchy.
The demonstration came a day after Abdullah dissolved parliament half-way through its four-year term, setting the stage for new elections. No date is set yet for the polls, but they are expected at the end of this year or early in 2013.
Jordan at present is in little danger of seeing mass upheaval, such as that which toppled regimes in Egypt and other Arab countries in 2011. Protests are usually peaceful, and well within the ability of the security forces to contain.
Most in the opposition remain loyal to the king, pressing for reforms but not advocating the removal of the monarchy.
In the latest rally, Hammam Saeed of the Muslim Brotherhood group insisted on the need for an election boycott in a speech to 7,000 protesters, including fellow Islamists, leftists, and members of other movements. Police sealed off the area.
"We will not reverse our boycott of the elections," Saeed shouted. Protesters chanted, "Abdullah, listen well: We want freedom, not your royal favors."
The main point of contention is over an election law enacted three months ago, allowing each eligible voter two ballots, including one for a nationwide party list, instead of a single ballot cast for a candidate running in a district.