Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Morocco Still Without a Government

Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane delivers a speech in parliament, in Rabat, Morocco, 20 February 2017. Photo Jalal Morchidi

In February 2017, four months after the legislative elections of October 7, 2016, which brought victory to the Parti de la Justice et du Dévelopment- PJD (Justice and Development Party), Morocco is still without a government. The reason is that formation of a coalition is much more difficult than expected. As a result, Morocco is currently experiencing a difficult political situation, characterized by a general mistrust in politics and institutions, between political parties and between the latter and the power-holders (the palace and its entourage, the Makhzen). This is reflected in people’s loss of hope in reforms and change, itself leading to tension. A number of indices point to these facts.

First, Benkirane, the Prime Minister in charge of forming a government, failed to do so after more than three months of negotiations with the various political parties. Although his party won the 2016 elections and in spite of his apparent conciliatory and peaceful discourse with regard to the State, he failed to secure the confidence of the palace. The main reason is that Benkirane could not conceal his and his party’s intention to weaken the monarchy by creating administrative, economic and social lobbies that would parallel the Makhzenian lobbies. This intention has been expressed in virtual and non-virtual repetitive attacks against the palace and its entourage became too virulent for the former. The PJD is clearly acting differently from the previous period during which it was very much in tune with the Makhzen. As a result, the higher authorities see that the Islamist PJD is not functioning within its calculations, which, in turn led to the reluctance of these authorities to keeping the Islamists in power.

Second, the other parties split into two groups: the first group is constituted of two main parties : the Parti du Progrés et du Socialisme or PPS (Progress and Socialism Party) and the Istiqlal (Independence) Party. Each one of these two parties aligned itself with the PJD for a specific reason. Hence, the PPS wanted to take advantage of the PJD’s electoral success and sit side by side with it; indeed, this party has become a quasi-vassal of the PJD. As for the Istiqlal Party, despite its long history, it has chosen to enter the government without conditions mainly because it finally realized that it did not really benefit from leaving the government in 2013 and swinging to the opposition and feared to continue to weaken if it did not find a place in the government.

The second group of political parties may be qualified as the «administration» parties, which are close to the palace. The main such parties are the Authenticity and Modernity Party – PAM, the National Rally of Independents Party- RNI. By uniting, these two parties wanted to unite and constitute a force that would counter the draconian conditions of the head of the government. This second group wanted to weaken the leader of the government and to force him to take one of the following actions : work from a position of weakness in spite of electoral victory, or quit and leave the decisions in the hands of the king, the constitutional guarantor of the continuity of the institutions. In such a situation, a return to the polls is not constructive solution because it would probably lead to the same situation.

This led Morocco to a stalemate and, apparently only two scenarios may be envisaged: opt for a government that would integrate the democratic forces (the United Left mainly) and all parties that believe in democracy and accept to function within the Moroccan political rules as set by the Makhzen. These various Democrats, especially Nabila Mounib the leader of the United Left, have never endorsed Benkirane and do not believe in the existence of a genuine political will to reform the leaders. These Democrats have never trusted the PJD on the grounds that the Islamists’ policies go against human rights and democratic values. For these democrats, the PJD is more occupied by the establishment of its own State than with the management of public affairs.

Push Benkirane to go back on his public statement. For the Democtrats, Benkirane’s recourse to endlessly endorsing the role of the victim and his attacks on tahakkum (hegemonny of the establishment) has not worked because he and his party are part and parcel of it. The party’s close relations to the Egypt’s Muslim Brothers, which is in conflict with the ruling military in that country, further isolate him.

These two scenarios have to take into account the sudden appearance of Aziz Akhannouch, Minister of Agriculture in the previous government, at the forefront of the political scene. He is a very wealthy businessman who was elected as president of the Rassemblement –RNI, a liberal party, with the aim of “deblocking” the Governmental stalemate. The most important negotiations are currently taking place between the PJD and Akhannouche’s party. The current negotiations are not as somooth as was expected, and while these calculations may seem political and purely arithmetic, they reveal a fundamental question: the need to rebalance the political landscape in Morocco as the only way to address the current stalemate.

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