Morocco Prepares for October Parliamentary Elections

Morocco is preparing to hold parliamentary elections on October 7, marking its second parliamentary election since 2011. Approximately thirty political parties are participating, including Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). In 2011, the PJD won 27 percent of the vote with 107 out of 395 seats, and formed a coalition with two secular parties. Since the elections, the PJD’s secretary general, Abdelilah Benkirane, has held the position of prime minister.

The royally-backed Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), PJD’s main rival, is also a contender in the upcoming elections. PAM, founded in 2008 by a royal advisor to King Mohamed VI, has been a close ally of the royal establishment. It recently presented itself as a potential alternative to PJD in last year’s local elections, winning 21 percent of all local seats, while PJD garnered only 15 percent. Despite PAM’s success, the results showed stark differences between rural and urban voting outcomes. PAM performed well in the rural areas of Morocco, while the PDJ received more votes in urban centers.

PJD’s current pre-election campaign has centered around a platform of combating corruption and promoting good governance. Benkirane issued a statement outlining the key features of PJD’s campaign platform, including “reinforcing [the] transition to new development sources as well as reinforcing economic competition, evaluating human resources and preserving citizens’ dignity, reinforcing social justice… and improving Morocco’s international relations.”

PAM Secretary General Ilyas Elomari criticized the current state of affairs in Morocco as “catastrophic,” a critique of the PJD’s five years in power. PAM’s campaign platform revolves around fostering education, women’s equality, and creating new jobs.

This summer, the King made a statement regarding his neutrality as the highest authority in Morocco, saying, “As the guarantor of respect for the Constitution, the smooth running of institutions and the safeguard of the democratic choice, I do not take part in polls, nor do I belong to any political party. I am the King of all Moroccans, candidates and voters.” He reiterated he does not have a role in the election process, but urged Moroccans to act “in good conscious.”

With the impending parliamentary elections, tensions between the two parties have increased with accusations of the monarchy’s favoritism toward PAM and anti-Islamist protests. On September 18, hundreds gathered in Casablanca to protest the PJD’s perceived agenda. Several videos online show demonstrators angry because they had been told the march was for a Moroccan rape victim. Prime Minister Benkirane responded to the demonstration announcing [Fr], “I cannot criticize anyone because we do not know who called for this protest,” though the PJD implied a belief that the interior ministry played a role in the protests.