Rabat – Abdelilah Benkirane, Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party (PJD,) has pledged support for the government headed by the PJD’s Saad Eddine El Othmani.
During a meeting of the party’s National Council on Saturday,Benkirane said that PJD members should show support for the government.
“The government is ours, and we need to support it. There’s no going back,” he said.
Benkirane’s public endorsement for the highly controversial PJD-led government came amid talks of divergences within the party leadership. The Secretary General is said to not be on good terms with El Othmani and other PJD ministers.
According to media reports, there are two main points of discord between the two sides.
The first is related to the concessions made by El Othmani and other leading party members during negotiations to form the coalition government. El Othmani accepted conditions that Benkiranehad previously refused and ended up forming a loose coalition of six parties, instead of four as Benkirane had advocated.
The second point of discord is the government’s management of the crisis in Al Hoceima and its neighboring towns. Protesters have been met with violence and dozens have been arrested and prosecuted for heavy crimes.
Benkirane criticized the government in June for accusing local Al Hoceimaresidents of separatism, calling it a huge mistake.
Later that month, media reported that Benkirane and other party ministers engaged in a heated argument during the first meeting of the PJD’s Secretariat General, the party’s executive body, since the appointment of the government in April.
Several PJD members and MPs publicly addressed criticism of the government. Critics of the government within the PJD believe the party will lose credibility and popularity because of the government’s policies.
El Othmani’s charisma-free personality, which stands in total contrast to that of Benkirane’s, is also another source of worry for those same members.
Between 2011 and 2016 the PJD’s popularity increased despite five years leading the government. In October 2016 PJD won 125 seats in the general elections, an unprecedented result in Moroccan electoral history. This was largely attributed to the personality of the party leader and then head of government, Benkirane.
For this reason, many are hoping that Benkiranewill run for a third term as PJD leader, despite internal party laws which limit Secretary General mandates to two.
The next party convention, most likely to be held in December, will provide an answer as to whether the PJD will choose to prolong Benkirane’s leadership or turn the page on the glory days of the moderate Islamists.