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3 Years To Go: Will PJD be Morocco’s Ruling Party Again in 2021?

3 Years To Go: Will PJD be Morocco’s Ruling Party Again in 2021?

Rabat – The Justice and Development Party (PJD) plans to hold an extraordinary meeting Saturday to evaluate the party’s progress after seven years in power.

The meeting, according to a statement published by the party on Wednesday, August 29, is part of PJD’s preparation for the start of the political session.

During the meeting, scheduled for Saturday, September 15, the party will examine its actions in Parliament, “as well as at the internal level related to supervision, training and communication.”

Morocco World News contacted PJD to learn about its performance and expectations regarding the next election, but the party declined to answer.

Since his appointment as prime minister in 2017, the secretary-general of the party, Saad Eddine El Othmani has been promising that the PJD would increase efforts to combat corruption, education problems, social disparities, and administration management issues.

Corruption: ‘Rife in state institutions’

According to international indices and reports on corruption, Morocco has not yet made progress in fighting corruption.

International NGO Freedom House said in its 2017 Freedom in the World report that  corruption in Morocco is “rife in state institutions and the economy,” adding that “despite the government’s rhetoric on combating corruption, it has a mixed record on enforcement.”

When the PJD came to power in 2011, the Corruption Perception Index ranked Morocco 80th out of 183 countries, with a score of 3.4 out of 10. In 2017, however, the index featured Morocco ranked 81st with 40 points out of 100.

King Mohammed VI reminds the cabinet of the irregularities and dysfunctions that hinder the country’s development and draw criticism in every speech he delivers to the nation.

In the aftermath of the King’s speech on the anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People on August 20, the head of government renewed his promises, telling the government of the major issues that should be addressed.

Economy: Has the government stagnated?

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Morocco was $3,151 in 2017, only slightly up from 3,039.92 in 2011 when PJD came to power. Despite the positivity of the government’s economic vision, GDP per capita is practically the same.

The unemployment rate has also seen no improvement: the number stood at 9.3 percent in the second quarter of 2018, ever so slightly down from 2011’s unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. The number shows a minimal difference in eight years.

The latest reports from Morocco’s Court of Auditors have also contradicted El Othmani’s statements on the economic and social situation.

In July, the head of government called on Moroccan citizens to stop “being gloomy and unrealistic” about the Moroccan economy.

“Yes, there are problems, but there is no crisis, and the Moroccan economy is in good shape,” El Othmani said in a Parliament session on July 23.

However, the recent reports of the Court of Auditors and Bank Al-Maghrib presented to the King on July 29, the eve of Throne Day, presented another story.

In his report, Bank Al Maghrib Governor Abdellatif Jouahri emphasized that despite growth in the domestic economy last year, Morocco is still suffering an increase of unemployment.

Once again, El Othmani reiterated that he took to heart the King’s recommendations, calling on the government to take all necessary actions to implement the monarch’s orders.

Education: Empowering or failing Morocco’s youth?

In his recent speeches, the King said that despite the country’s achievements, there are still dysfunctions in Moroccan administration and education. The King also called on the government to work on the education system and empower Morocco’s wealth: its youth.

In response to the King’s speeches, El Othmani promised that the King’s instructions will be fulfilled as he informed his government to make the monarch’s orders their guidelines. El Othmani even promised that the government would “revolutionize” the education system.

Nevertheless, criticism ran wild recently, especially with parents sending their children back to school this month. Parents criticized both the cost of school textbooks and the content of primary school textbooks.

The education ministry introduced Darija (Moroccan Arabic) in primary school textbooks and has received backlash from parents.

What has the government achieved so far?

Supportive of the monarchy, the party considers itself as a body that contributes to the development of the country. The party also aims to ensure “integrity, freedom, responsibility, justice and solidarity.”

PJD, which received a simple majority of votes in the 2011 and 2016 elections (around 30 percent in 2016), however, has been criticized this year, especially by its supporters when some PJD ministers angered Moroccan citizens.

With the emergence of the social boycott on April 20, 2018, and a protest movement in northern Morocco between 2016 and 2017, Moroccan citizens accused the party of having changed its ideology after gaining seats in the government.

A primary example is the backlash after Lahcen Daoudi, a PJD member and the minister of governance, participated in a protest deemed against the demands of a boycott of three major companies targeting high commodity prices in Morocco.

Daoudi joined a protest with Centrale Danone employees in front of Parliament to decry the boycott on the company.

Citizens, however, felt “offended” and shocked to see a minister of the ruling party protesting “against the demands of citizens.”

International media heavily reported on Lahcen’s participation in the boycott, with the Arab Weekly describing the boycott as the “biggest crisis” of the PJD “since the dismissal of Benkirane” as head of government in April 2017.

In a Parliament session, one MP showed a video of Daoudi before he was minister, condemning “poverty” and high prices.

The MP asked Daoudi what changed since PJD gained seats after the election.

The MP said that PJD ministers are responsible for the high commodity prices and the expensive cost of water, electricity, and train tickets.

PJD officials have also received criticism for not intervening in a court’s decision to give heavy sentences to Hirak Rif activists, who were jailed for their involvement in the Al Hoceima Hirak Rif protest movement to protest social disparities.

When Hirak activists were given sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years in prison on June 26, many Moroccans expected the government, especially PJD officials, to react to the heavy sentences.

However most of them, including El Othmani, said their hands were tied as the judiciary is independent from parliamentary legislation.

Moroccans must wait and see whether the cabinet will fulfill its promises to make Morocco a better place for youth and for the next generation to come.

Losing support?

While the party does have loyal supporters, recent events, especially the boycott, caused Moroccans to ask whether the party is keeping its “justice and development” ideology. Some social media users, who voted for the PJD,  have even claimed that they will boycott the 2021 election.

In the 2016 election, PJD won 125 seats out of the 395 existing seats in Parliament. PJD has 16 MPs who represent the party at the House of Councillors in Parliament. PJD also has 11 ministers at the cabinet level.

In both elections (2011 and 2016), the party’s former leader Benkirane gained the trust of Moroccan citizens, promising more changes. Opposition parties accused Benkirane’s cabinet of failing to fulfill his commitments, but the “beloved” prime minister explained the delays, emphasizing that changes cannot be felt in a single political term and his goals were long-term projects.

When the King sacked Benkirane in 2017 for delays in forming a government through coalition, the King appointed El Othmani, who promised to make his ministers work to serve the demands of Moroccan citizens.

King Mohammed VI’s speeches, however, have contained more complaints than achievements.

Ultimately, PJD’s achievements will be put to the test in the next election, in November 2021.

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