PJD wins Moroccan parliamentary elections, USFP loses half of its seats

Mon 10 Oct 2016

PJD wins Moroccan parliamentary elections, USFP loses half of its seats

On 7th October the citizens of Morocco elected a new parliament. Winner is the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), increasing its number of seats in the House of Representatives by 18 to 125. The main opposition, the secular and royalist Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) increased its presence in parliament by 55 to 102. In third with 46 seats came the Istiqlal party, which presented itself as an “alternative” to the new bipolarity. The National Rally of Independents (RNI) went down from 52 to 37 seats. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) saw its representation in the parliament nearly halve, from 39 seats in the previous elections, to 20 seats this time around. The Popular Movement (MP) gained 27 seats, the Constitutional Union (UC) 19, the Party of Progress and Socialism 12 (PPS), the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS) 3 and 1 seat for both the Unity and Democracy Party (PUD) and the Green Left Party (PGV). The Unified Socialist Party (PSU) cooperated with two other parties (PADS and CNI) in the Federation of the Democratic Left and won 2 seats. Voter turnout was with only 43 percent considerably low, even for Moroccan standards. Turnout remained low because of the people’s loss in confidence in Moroccan politics, followed by the failure of parties to make sustainable changes and to translate their promises into true achievements.

Prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane claimed the victory of his PJD immediately after the polls closed. “The Moroccan people have rewarded the PJD for the work we did in our previous term,” he said. Benkirane added that he does not want to cooperate with PAM, his main opponent. PAM Secretary General Ilyas El Omari also said his party rules out any coalition with the PJD to form a government and continues its legislative agenda from the opposition. “I say to Moroccans, to whom we presented our legislative agenda that we will not abandon our platform just because we did not come in first. We will defend it from all sides. And today we will defend it from our position in the opposition.”

New Coalition

Benkirane is optimistic about the formation of a coalition: “Nothing can be said for certain in politics, but I believe that [the PJD] will not face the same issues forming a government [as it did five years ago]. Though the PJD will at least need two coalition partners, and none of the major parties are willing to help the PJD to get a majority. The Istiqlal party, a conservative partner, dropped out of the government in 2013, which makes a new cooperation tricky. In addition, the centre-right National Rally of Independence, part of the outgoing coalition, has ruled out another partnership with the PJD. This will makes the formation of a new government complex.

The election result is a grave disappointment for the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) who lost 19 of its 39 seats. Up until 2007 it was among the strongest political parties, but reportedly the party’s popularity declined after Driss Lachgar became the party’s First Secretary. In a statement, he questioned the fairness of the elections and said that they have recorded offenses committed by other parties.

The United Socialist Party (PSU), led by Endocrinology Professor Nabila Mounib, participated for the first time in the parliamentary elections, after boycotting the vote in 2011 due to concerns about the limited scope of the constitution. Mounib stated before the elections that she preferred her Democratic Left Federation (the combination of the PSU, PADS and CNI) to be in the opposition to improve accountability and solidify inter-branch checks and balances. She again criticized the 2011 constitution because it did not go far enough to enshrine democratic values in Morocco. As a response to the results, she said: “The leftist federation project that we carry with the goal of change has begun to find its way within this country. Moroccans trusted our project, which is getting stronger because it presents real answers to the major problems Moroccans have.” Though the PSU is disappointed that only two candidates (in Rabat and Casablanca) were elected and that no women will represent the party in parliament.

PACE Observer Mission
Following the invitation of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) observed the parliamentary elections with seven teams of observers. The PACE delegation, led by Ian Liddell-Grainger, welcomed the professionalism of the authorities, who organized the poll with integrity and in full transparency. It commended the professionalism and courtesy of the members of the polling stations that the delegation met during its visit. In addition, it welcomes changes in legislation opening the young people list to women and the choice made by some parties to include a majority of women in their young people lists: it regrets that these and other legislative changes were made only at a late stage.

PACE noted that some aspects of the electoral process could be improved. Cases of electoral fraud were reported, even though the members of the delegation did not see them. PACE will investigate these cases. Furthermore, the delegation advised the Moroccan government to create an independent Central Electoral Commission. It also regrets that the current voters’ registration system and the awareness campaign have not produced a turnout higher than in 2011, particularly among young voters, and notes the surprisingly high amount of spoilt ballot papers. The late release of party programmes/manifestos might have been one of the reasons for the low turnout, the delegation said. Finally, the organisation of the polling stations in a more structured manner could be improved; particularly in the counting process.

Morocco World News (1,2,3,4,5,6) Reuters (1,2), PACE, Al Jazeera Aujourd’hui Le Maroc