AMMAN - Jordan's powerful Muslim Brotherhood decided on Thursday to boycott early elections expected later this year because of a "lack of reform," in a move that will likely throw the country into political crisis.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's shura (advisory) council voted today to boycott parliamentary elections this year," deputy leader Zaki Bani Rsheid said.
"Forty-nine out of 52 members of the council voted on the decision, which comes as a result of a lack of political reform in the country."
Bani Rsheid said "the regime has failed to meet reform demands by Jordanians, including the Islamist movement."
The Islamists and other opposition parties have said they were considering a boycott of the polls over a new electoral law, under which voters cast two ballots: one for individual candidates in their governorates and one for parties or coalitions nationwide.
King Abdullah II has ordered parliament to increase seats reserved for party candidates, urging the Islamists to take part in the polls.
MPs raised the number from 17 to 27, but failed to satisfy opposition groups, who plan to hold a "day of rejection" demonstration on Friday with other parties and youth groups.
Some analysts have warned against "official rigging" of elections and growing political problems under this "exclusionary" law, saying it would be meaningless to hold the polls without the Islamists.
According to the constitution, elections should be organised every four years, but Jordan held early polls in 2010 after King Abdullah II dissolved parliament.
The Islamists boycotted that vote in protest over constituency boundaries, saying the results over-represented loyalist rural areas at the expense of urban areas seen as Islamist strongholds.
Jordanians have held weekly pro-reform protests since last year, and the Islamists have repeatedly demanded sweeping changes that would lead to a parliamentary system in which the premier would be elected rather than named by the king.