Rabat- After two political parties in the current political government coalition were rocked by King Mohammed VI’s dismissal of their serving ministers and the rebuke of former officials, speculations have been made about a potential reshuffle of the cabinet led by Saad Eddine El Othmani.
On Tuesday, the royal palace announced that King Mohammed VI had sacked four ministers from the left-wing Progress and Socialism Party (PPS) and the center-right Popular Movement (MP) party.
The King’s dismissal of the ministers in question came as a response to the findings of the Court of Auditors, chaired by the former prime minister Driss Jettou, which pointed to the responsibility of those officials in the delay of projects in the region of Al Hoceima, which had been home to almost a year of protests.
The list of dismissed ministers included MP’s former Minister of Education Mohamed Hassad and Larbi Bencheikh, the former secretary of state in charge of vocational training, as well as PPS’s head Mohamed Nabil Benabdellah, the former minister of housing, and his co-party member El Houssaine El Ouardi, the former health minister.
The monarch reprimanded five other former ministers from the previous government, led by Abdelilah Benkirane. In addition to Rachid Belmokhtar, a technocrat who was in charge of education, the four other ministers also belonged to PPS and MP, with two ministers for each.
The King’s decision is likely not be limited to changing some ministers with other ones from the same political formation, especially in light of the recent developments in the Moroccan political scene.
Istiqlal’s Impending Comeback
On October, 7 Nizar Baraka, the former minister of finance in Benkirane’s government, was elected as the new leader of Istiqlal Party (PI). Baraka unseated Hamid Chabat, the controversial former leader whose decisions cost Istiqlal its membership in the government in 2013 when the party withdrew from the coalition led by the Justice and Development Party (PJD).
For over two years, Chabat adopted an anti-Benkirane attitude before shifting gears after the municipal elections in November 2015 and turning into an ally of the Islamist then-head of government.
Still, he could not manage to join the current government coalition as the parties with which the parties PJD formed an alliance chose not to include Istiqlal in the coalition.
Observers of Moroccan politics saw the maneuver as a move to deprive Benkirane from a key ally. PJD’s other ally, PPS, has less political weight in comparison with Morocco’s oldest party.
When Istiqlal was excluded from the coalition after he controversially referred to Mauritania as historically part of Morocco, Benkirane had only one remaining ally, which is PPS. He sought to form a coalition with the latter and the less friendly MP and the National Rally of Independents (RNI).
As both RNI and MP imposed that two other parties, the Constitutional Union (UC) and the Socialist Union for Popular Forces (USFP), be included in the coalition, something which Benkirane rejected, the government could not be formed until Benkirane was dismissed by King Mohammed VI in March.
With both him and Chabat out of the picture, the way is paved now for Istiqlal to join the government.
Moroccan media outlets reported that Istiqlal might substitute to PPS and PM after they were rebuked by King Mohammed VI.
Morocco’s oldest party was a member of the successive government coalitions since 1998, and the former party chief, Abbas El Fassi, was the prime minister from 2007 and 2011.
Istiqlal is seeking to rejoin the government particularly as the party suffered losses during the municipal and general elections in 2015 and 2016 as a result of its withdrawal from the coalition two years earlier.
The move is considered likely to be backed by the royal palace, as the new Istiqlal leader has good relations with King Mohammed VI.
On the other hand, relations between the King and PPS leader, Benabdellah, turned sour in September 2016 after the latter accused the monarch’s advisor and close friend, Fouad Ali El Himma, of intervening in politics to support his former party, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM).
PAM and PJD fought an intense battle a year ago to win parliamentary elections, in which the Islamists got the better of their rivals.