By Christopher Brodsky
By Christopher Brodsky
Rabat – In anticipation of Morocco’s upcoming October 7th elections, rival party officials are casting blame on one another for failures in economic, social and political policies designed to curb the influence of extremism among the nation’s youth.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, IIyas El-Omari, secretary general of the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), criticized the leadership of the incumbent Islamist Party of Justice and Development for allowing youth to fall under the sway of extremist ideologies.
El-Omari claimed state-funded organizations have supported the radicalization of the nation’s youth and has called for the matter to be investigated. He also brought attention to recent sex scandals involving members of the PJD’s leadership. Economic and political concerns, however, took center stage in El-Omari’s criticism of the PJD’s coalition government.
In a separate interview with The Associated Press on Monday October 3, Moroccan prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane refuted the allegations that his government is supporting the rise of extremism, branding El-Omari a “liar” in the process.
Benkirane instead acknowledged the difficulty of combating extremism and providing viable economic, social and religious alternatives for Moroccan youth. During the interview, the outgoing Prime Minister noted the importance of continued support for women’s issues, balancing the budget, and promoting a “tolerant and enlightened” interpretation of Islam.
Security is a top concern for voters this election. The outcome of today’s elections will determine the parliamentary leadership, alongside the palace, in charge of devising strategies for curtailing the lure of radicalism. In the days leading up to elections day, tension between the two main parties continues to grow as representatives detail their plans for how to tackle these and other complicated issues.
Analysts have issued warnings about the limited yet significant number of Moroccan nationals that have ventured overseas in the hopes of joining groups such as ISIS. The threat of returning foreign fighters and home-grown extremists will continue to be a significant challenge in the years ahead.
Despite the importance of the upcoming elections, many in Morocco have their doubts about their government’s effectiveness and transparency. Turnout for elections has historically been low as many are frustrated with the pace of political reform and continued accusations of corruption.
These elections will be a good indicator of how much faith Moroccans have in the ability of the government to address critical issues such as security, education and employment as well as demonstrate real progress in ongoing reform efforts. Since the 2011 protests and the creation of the new constitution, parliament has gained powers once reserved solely for the king. These next few years will be essential for the government to demonstrate its effectiveness at addressing the concerns of the general public.