Rabat - Abdelilah Benkirane’s approval ratings are falling less than six months ahead of the October 7 elections, but only 15 percent of Moroccans have united behind the head of government’s main challenger, Ilyas El Omari.
Rabat – Abdelilah Benkirane’s approval ratings are falling less than six months ahead of the October 7 elections, but only 15 percent of Moroccans have united behind the head of government’s main challenger, Ilyas El Omari.
A new poll conducted by the Tariq Ibn Ziyad Initiative (TIZI) – “an independent, nonpartisan, and patriotic” organization – in partnership with the Morocco-based Averty institute asked a representative sample of 1098 Moroccans a series of questions, including: “Who do you see as the head of the next government?”
According to Telquel, 44,9 percent of the respondents said they support Benkirane in continuing his five-year reign after the elections later this year. The “other” category, naming no specific political figure, received almost a fifth of the votes, while Elomari, the leader of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) since January of this year, took the third-largest share of support at 15 percent.
Elomari became a fugitive from the law in 1984 in his efforts to avoid a five-year prison sentence after participating in student-led protests in the town of Imnoud. In 1989, King Hassan II issued Elomari, and several others involved in the incident, royal pardons for their crimes, which the government said included burning the Moroccan flag, a claim the opposition politician denied, according to a January article by Telquel.
The PAM chief now presides over the Tangier-Tetouan, Al Hoceima region and has reportedly been called a “ghost” and a “crocodile” indirectly by Benkirane, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) and one of Elomari’s staunchest rivals.
Professor Nabila Mounib of the University of Hassan II in Casablanca and the head of the opposition United Socialist Party (PSU), is the fourth-most popular presidential hopeful due to the recognition she gained after chairing a Moroccan delegation to Sweden last year. The visit took place after the Scandinavian country’s legislature introduced a bill to recognize the Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Within weeks, the members of the delegation and the Swedish-Moroccan diaspora community convinced the government to release a statement assuring Morocco that it would not recognize SADR sovereignty over the Western Sahara, in turn allowing the inauguration of an IKEA store in Casablanca. The opening of the Swedish company’s first Moroccan outlet had been stalled due the diplomatic row.
“[Mounib] embodies a certain freedom of tone,” TIZI said of the politician who gained the confidence of 8.3 percent of the surveyees. “It’s her personality that seems to attract the interest of respondents.”
Mounib is the only woman to have a substantial following in the poll, which took into account age, sex and geographical factors while extracting a suitable set of surveyees.
The current minister of foreign affairs and head of the National Rally of Independents, Salaheddine Mezouar, is the fifth most popular pick with the backing of 4.8 percent of Moroccans. Over the past decade, Mezouar has held several other major positions in the national government, including minister of industry and trade (2004-2007) and minister of the economy and finance (2007-2012).
Other top candidates in Moroccan minds include Nabil Benabdellah, the minister of housing and urbanism from the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) at 3.4 percent support, Hamid Chabat, the former mayor of Fez from the Independence Party at 2.3 percent support, Mohamed Sajid, the former mayor of Casablanca from the Constitution Union at 1.7 percent support, and Mohand Laenser, the current minister of the interior from the Popular Movement party at 0.7 percent support.
Despite the electorate’s apparent indecision regarding the most eligible future president, 73 percent of respondents said they already knew their pick for the next election, though the surveyees did not trust the political field in general, showing a 41.3 percent confidence rate.
The survey also asked about the Moroccans’ confidence in Benkirane, which declined from a 62 percent approval rating 15 months ago to 48.5 percent today, the results showed. The figures are similar for the “satisfaction” of the head of government (44.7 percent against 55.2 percent in January 2015) and confidence in the government as a whole (48.percent against 57.8 percent in January 2015).
Benkirane also appears to be becoming less popular more quickly in the lower economic class than the Moroccan bourgeoisie. In rural areas, he received only 39.8 percent of support in the survey, presumably due to significantly lower agricultural output this season.
“The [upper class], which ultimately had little vis-à-vis political expectations, if not preserving political and social stability in order to preserve their privileges, show steady satisfaction since political and social stability has been preserved throughout the mandate,” according to the same source.
Benkirane’s most loyal supporters came from young Moroccans between the ages of 18 and 24. The group gave him a 56.3 percent satisfaction rating.
The areas in which the government’s achievements were the most positively rated were in security, transportation and corruption. In the fields of employment and purchasing power, the government lost support.
Despite the government’s declining ratings, opposition forces have not garnered enough backing to suggest they would be able to dethrone Benkirane in the coming elections. Seventeen percent of respondents said they trusted the opposition, while 34.4 percent said they thought it “would do better than the current government if it was in power” – up from 17.8 percent in July 2013, but still a far cry away from a commanding majority.