Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Nabila Mounib: The First Moroccan Woman to Lead A Political Party

Nabila Mounib. Photo by Ghifri1/Flickr.

Born in 1960 in Casablanca, Nabila Mounib was elected secretary-general of the Unified Socialist Party on 16 January 2012, becoming the first Moroccan woman to lead a political party.

Mounib holds a doctorate in endocrinology from the University of Montpellier in France, and is currently professor of endocrinology at Hassan II University in Casablanca and regional secretary of the National Syndicate of Higher Education. She is married with three children.

Both Mounib’s family and her natural charisma prepared her for a brilliant political career. Three men had a particularly strong impact on her success. The first was her father, a lawyer and committed intellectual, who served as a consul in Oran,  Algeria, in the 1950 and 1960s. It was he who exposed Mounib to Algerian socialism while her mother, born to an aristocratic family from Fez, took care of her nine children. The second was her father-in-law, a companion of the legendary leftist Mehdi Ben Barka, an opponent of King Hassan II who disappeared in 1965. The third was her husband. The influence of these three family members is apparent in Mounib’s political trajectory.

She became interested in politics at the age of 14, when she started to question the values of her society and ways to improve it. As a student at the  Mohamed V University, Rabat, she was a member of the National Union of Moroccan Students (UNEM) at a time when student organizations were leftist and opposed to the regime. Ever since, Mounib has been a fervent advocate for equality, freedom, emancipation and democracy. Her vision of achieving this in Moroccan society was through a unification of the leftist organizations in one party.

In 1985, while writing her doctoral thesis in France, she was active in the Democratic Youth Organization, then joined the Organization for Freedom of Information and Expression (OLIE) and the Organization for the People’s Democratic Action (OADP), all of which subsequently merged with other leftist organizations to become the United Socialist Party.

In 2000, she became a member of the Central Committee of the Organization of Popular Democratic Action (OADP).

In 2005, Munib’s dream of leftist unification was strengthened by the decision of the Fidelity to Democracy Association, affiliated with the well-known Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), to join the United Socialist Party.

More than that, the Unified Socialist Party became the centre of the Leftist Federation of the Moroccan left and attracted a number of other leftist organizations.

A staunch defender of women’s rights, Mounib is a symbol and a champion of women’s emancipation in Morocco. By becoming the first Moroccan woman to lead a political party, Mounib is an icon for young people of both sexes. In a Tel Quel-Tizi- Averty survey, Mounib made headlines when she came third in the ranking of politicians who could head the Moroccan government.

Mounib is a vocal politician with strong militant nerves. In 2011, she called for the boycott of the constitutional referendum because it keeps most of the power in the hands of the monarch and does not assume a real separation of powers. She also called for a boycott of the November 2011 elections on the grounds that insufficient powers were given to the parliament and the prime minister.

Since 2011, Mounib has never missed an opportunity to denounce the ‘façade’ democracy of Morocco’s current Islamist-led government. For example, in January 2016 after the violent dispersion of hundreds of teachers protesting against the government’s decrees, she denounced the government’s incapacity to handle vital problems relating to a vital sector: education. Many of Mounib’s statements were picked up by various social media in and outside Morocco.

In August 2013, Mounib again made news by denouncing the king’s pardon of the Spanish paedophile Galyan Vina. She aired her outrage in the press and social networks and even went so far as to ask the king to apologize to the Moroccan people.

In 2015, she was instrumental in dissipating a looming political crisis between Morocco and Sweden when the latter recognized the Saharawi Republic. She chaired a Moroccan delegation of leftist parties in Stockholm to defend Morocco’s position, as a result of which the Swedish government abandoned its plans to recognize Western Sahara as an independent country.

Mounib lost the 2015 elections because she refused to mince her words when it came to the conservative Islamists’ policies. In an interview with BBC Arabic, she declared that conservative Islamists use people’s poverty to “harvest” votes. Such declarations have pushed many conservative Islamists to attack Mounib’s political project.

Despite this loss, Mounib continues to fight for equality and inclusiveness, and her unique trajectory and convictions will continue to have an impact on Moroccans’ political views as the country takes faltering steps toward democracy.

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