Saturday, October 08, 2016

Morocco's Legislative Election Results

Two major parties emerged far ahead of the rest of the field - the Justice and Development Party (PJD) topped the elections with 125 seats in the House of Representatives. The Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) followed with the most spectacular advance of any party, rising from 42 seats in 2011 to 102 this year
Abdelilah Benkirane - PJD leader

Far back they were followed by the Istiqlal Party (46 seats), the National Rally of Independents (37 seats), the Popular Movement (27 seats) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (20 seats). The Constitutional Union managed to win 19 seats in the lower house. The Party of Progress and Socialism won 12 seats while the Social Democratic Movement captured 3 seats. Democratic Left Federation had only 2 seats despite the mobilisation of social networks during the election campaign. The two vacant seats on the 395 parliamentary seats will be occupied by the Green Left Party and the Party of Uniqueness and Democracy.

 Hisham Aidi, a Harlem-based writer, writing for Aljazeera English says that in the run-up to election day, the war of words between the main rival parties - the incumbent PJD and the Party for Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) - escalated, with the Islamist PJD claiming that their main rival, the PAM, is favoured by the state, and the latter stating that the PJD has been spreading extremist ideology throughout the kingdom.

Thirty parties have fielded candidates yet only four or five parties have a strong electoral base and won a sizeable number of seats - namely, the incumbent PJD, the rising PAM, the Istiqlal Party (founded in 1944), the Popular Movement, and the Party of Progress and Socialism.

The greatest improvement in the election belongs to  PAM, a  party was founded in 2008 by Fouad El Himma, a close adviser to King Mohammed VI. PAM does not have a clear ideological stance - it claims to be "democratic and modern" - and is supported by prominent business leaders.

By most accounts, the PAM was established to counter the growing influence of the Islamist PJD, which has been making electoral gains since it won eight seats in the parliamentary elections of 1997.

The Islamist party went on to win 42 seats in September 2002, and 107 seats in November 2011, after which Abdelilah Benkirane, the party leader, was named prime minister of Morocco.

PAM supporters at a rally in Kenitra

Since its founding, the PAM has also been building support, particularly among liberals and economic elites, winning roughly the same amount of votes as the PJD in the municipal elections of 2015.

Morocco's new constitution, passed by referendum in 2011, whittled down some of the king's powers - granting the prime minister the right to appoint new officials and to dissolve parliament, powers previously held by the palace.

A constitutional amendment also states that the king must choose a prime minister from the party that receives the most votes.

Yet the monarch still enjoys vast power, chairing the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Security Council, and the Council of Ministers (excluding the Minister of Justice), which must approve all legislation.

The king also reserves the right to play the role of a powerbroker in party politics. The PJD is seen as challenging the political and religious authority of the palace. For months Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has denounced the palace's attempts to steer the PJD through "remote-control politics" ("attahakum").

Long-standing tensions between the PJD and the palace have now erupted into full view.

PJD supporters accuse the ministry of interior of organising a protest in Casablanca on September 25, where protesters denounced the PJD's "Islamisation of Moroccan society".

And then an Islamist candidate allied to the PJD was barred from running for office in Marrakesh because of his alleged hate speech (while a dozen or so Salafi candidates who had been banned from political office also because of hate speeches are now permitted by the ministry of interior to stand for office.)

PAM's Ilyas Ell Omari

In recent weeks, several PJD members have also been caught in highly publicised scandals involving drugs and land-grabbing. The ministry of interior disavows any ties to the anti-PJD gathering in Casablanca, and to exposing recent scandals.

The PAM's candidate and secretary general Ilyas El Omari has likewise denied any unsavoury links between the palace and his party, claiming that the king's advisers are associated with various parties and not just the PAM.

He has also accused the PJD-led government of allowing for the radicalisation of youth, particularly in northern Morocco, and called for an investigation of the "state-accredited associations" that spread such ideology.

Benkirane, in turn, rebuffed Omari's accusation ("Can he name any of these associations?"), adding that he does not consider the PAM a political party because it is "manipulated".

Public opinion polls before elections are banned in Morocco for fear of swaying voters towards one party or another, yet the PJD was favoured to win, largely because of its support base in urban centres and in lower-income areas.

This is ironic given that the PJD's policies of subsidy cuts and pension system reform, and its freeze on government jobs, has disproportionately affected the urban poor.

Across the country, unemployment remains high (20 percent for youths between 15-24), and corruption is still rampant (Morocco fell from 80th to 88th place in Transparency International's index of 175 countries).

PAM leaders are also quick to point that the PJD promised 7 percent growth and delivered a growth rate of 1.5 percent - claiming that, if elected, the PAM will create 150,000 jobs per year. However, unless they are invited into coalition they have no chance to deliver on this promise.

In an interview with Aljazeera Benkirane said that no alliance is envisaged with PAM, the second strongest political force in Morocco.

Benkirane said it was out of the question to form a coalition government with PAM, given that his party does not favour such an arrangement. He said that he would "reach out to all the parties, with the exception of PAM".

Without an absolute majority the PJD Abdelilah Benkirane's team to form a government, but the arithmetic of alliances remains complicated. However, Benkirane remains optimistic. "Nothing is ruled in politics, but all the conditions are met to form a new government," he promises. He added the same source: "in all likelihood, the situation will be less difficult than last time." The negotiations are open.

Regarding the participation rate of 43%, Benkirane said that this rate is "acceptable", pointing out that the comparison of this ratio with that of the 2011 elections did not hold, because the voters that day n ' were only 12 million registered on the electoral lists, while this number increased with the elections for nearly 16 million voters.

However, Benkirane said that "it would have been better if the turnout exceeded 50%," mentioning the need to begin mobilizing to encourage citizens to vote massively in the future.

Benkirane also stressed that the electoral process in Morocco ahead "irreversibly" and that the democratic process "can not be broken" . In power since 2011, Islamists won 125 seats out of 395 in Parliament. What he didn't say was how concerned he was by the huge rise in popularity of the more secular PAM. If their growth continues they will be a major challenge to the PJD.

The Interior Department said that these results remain provisional pending validation by the State Statistics Committee, in accordance with legal provisions.


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