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Egypt on Jordan’s Mind

AMMAN – The behavior of Jordan’s Royal Court in the days following the official announcement of the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in Egypt’s presidential election tells an intriguing story. At first, Jordan’s King Abdullah II hesitated to sign a long-sought-after election law. This was followed by approval of the law, a request for its revision, and a surprise official meeting with the leader of Hamas.

During the past year, King Abdullah has been adamant that Jordanians should vote in free and fair elections no later than the end of 2012. Constitutional changes were adopted. An independent election commission was created by law. And a respected Jordanian jurist who had been a judge at the International Court of Justice was reprimanded for dragging his feet in getting the election law passed.

So why did the king wait four days after both houses of parliament passed the law to sign it, and why did he immediately ask for changes?

The law, which establishes a largely majoritarian system based on single-member districts, with only 17 of the parliament’s 140 seats to be elected according to national party lists, was approved by Jordan’s Senate just hours before Egypt’s independent election commission declared Morsi the winner. People to whom I spoke in Jordan’s government and palace say that they were led to believe that the post would go to Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.