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Maintenance. For the first time, nearly 18 million Moroccans were called to vote on the same day, Wednesday September 8, to elect the 395 deputies of the House of Representatives and the more than 31,000 municipal and regional elected officials.
Ballots that will seal the future of the Justice and Development Party (PJD, Islamist), at the head of the current government coalition. Political scientist Mustapha Sehimi analyzes the situation of a party that has disappointed many times ” whistled, sanctioned and censored ” over the past five years.
What is your assessment of the government coalition led by the Justice and Development Party?
Mustapha Sehimi The government clearly did not measure up. He has also been whistled, sanctioned and censored several times over the past five years. Six months after their inauguration, in October 2017, four ministers were dismissed by the king after the submission of a report from the Court of Auditors pinning the executive on the dysfunctions of public policies in the Rif, a year after the start of events in Al-Hoceima [la mort d’un vendeur de poissons broyé par une benne à ordure avait déclenché un vaste mouvement de contestation sociale]. Then two other ministers were fired in 2018.
On several occasions in his speeches, the king called on the government to speed up its reforms. He also imposed Saaïd Amzazi, labeled Popular Movement (MP), to launch the education project. Moreover, all the major reforms have been royal initiatives: advanced regionalization, deconcentration, re-articulation of the public sector, preschool education and the construction of social protection.
What record can the Othmani government claim?
Not much ! The government has lagged behind, has failed to provide impetus, to anticipate. This is why a third legislature of the Justice and Development Party is not desired by many circles of power. It is not desired and, in my opinion, not desirable for the proper functioning of the institutions. First, because a party with an Islamist frame of reference must not become a central, structuring and regulating formation of national political life, but also because a party in power for fifteen years would destabilize the partisan, pluralist system in Morocco.
How does the PJD stand in terms of elections?
In 2011, the PJD had 107 deputies, 124 in 2016. It was on a positive wave thanks to the personality and the populism of its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane. In recent years, it has normalized itself by becoming a governing party. It no longer refers to religious values, the fight against corruption, the criminalization of homosexuality and sex outside marriage. He has nothing more of the party of virtue and moralization that he said to be in 2011.
In addition, the party is divided between two lines: a line favorable to Abdelilah Benkirane, another to Salahedine El-Othmani. Some supporters did not accept the ouster of Abdelilah Benkirane, during the 8e party congress in December 2017, as secretary general for a third term, others did not understand that the new majority leader gave in on the entry of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) into the government. However, the PJD has an associative fabric and a good territorial network and should benefit from a vote by default, because the other parties have nothing to propose.
My guess is that he will come out on top, but will fail to form a government and that a new majority leader will be appointed by the king. The profile that emerges is that of the Minister of Finance and member of the National Rally of Independents (RNI), Mohamed Benchaâboun.
Did the campaign bring out any important themes?
The campaign was greatly reduced due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. There was no great electoral dynamic since rallies and meetings of more than twenty-five people were banned. But beyond that, the parties have no specific programs to propose. Traditionally, Moroccan parties limit themselves to a catalog of wishes which is difficult to translate into an electoral program.
This is all the more the case for this election because the parties awaited the conclusions of the commission responsible for establishing the “New development model” for Morocco until 2035, appointed by the king after the events of Al-Hoceima in the Rif. It submitted its report at the end of May 2021. The parties therefore had to adapt their program to the strategic axes set by this text. This further diluted their specificities. It should also be remembered that, since 1998, the Moroccan political parties have all participated together in successive governments, without the PJD before 2011, then with the PJD after. For the voters, the parties are deadened, worn out.
What’s your prognostic ?
The new electoral quotient will atomize the political landscape and penalize the major parties, such as the PJD and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). According to the simulations, the PJD should win between 80 and 85 seats, the RNI 75 and the PAM between 60 and 70. Three parties, or even four, will therefore suffice to form the majority in the government. Among them, the RNI and the Istiqlal, which should join the majority after eight years in the opposition. I do not think that the PJD will switch to the opposition, it will play the game of alliances but will not win decisive positions.