Former PJD chief Benkirane is not happy with the new PJD-led government and regrets the replacing of some PJD ministers.
Rabat – Former Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane has once again lashed out at the El Othmani-led government, especially calling out the current head of government for his poor choice of ministers during the recent ministerial reshuffle.
A traditional government critic since he left his head of government post in November 2017, the erratic and feisty Benkirane, a veteran member and proclaimed “spiritual guide” of Morocco’s ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) has not been out of the political limelight for months.
Since his much-reported feud with El Othmani on the recently adopted education bill, Benkirane had stayed out of political sight, only sporadically and rather uncontroversially commenting on the future of the PJD.
Breaking the months-long relative silence over the weekend, however, the former PJD chief told a group of PJD youth at his home in Rabat that he has had a hard time understanding some of El Othmani’s choices when appointing ministers.
Continuity vs. new blood
“I have failed to find a reasonable explanation” for the sacking of some ministers, he insisted, emphasizing the “handiwork” and dedication of some outgoing ministers, especially from the PJD, whom he believes were doing “very good” work.
He then named Mustapha El Khalfi, the former government spokesperson (and, of course, an influential PJD member), as the perfect illustration of ministers who should have not been replaced.
“People are not happy with El Khalfi’s departure,” he said. He went on to explain that while El Khalfi is surely “not a genius, he is a hard worker and good researcher.”
The comment may come across as a veiled criticism of Hassan Abyaba, the newly appointed minister for culture, sports, and youth as well as government spokesperson. Abyaba’s first press conferences have been below the standard El Khalfi set when summarizing the talking points of government meetings or explaining the government’s positions on sensitive topics.
At the same time, however, while many have also criticized the government reshuffle, Benkirane’s praise of outgoing PJD ministers may raise questions about his partisan rhetoric.
Following the government reshuffle, most critics, rather than complain about the departure of some members, expressed doubts about the new government’s ability to actually deliver the changes that have been promised. Critics of the government reshuffle were mostly concerned about the triumph of continuity over rupture, as promised by the King.
But Benkirane’s message appears to suggest that he is concerned that there was insufficient continuity in the ministerial appointments.
As if to respond to that prospective rebuttal of his conservative and PJD-embracing criticism of the new government, however, Benkirane said that he is mostly concerned about “what can be done to change the country, rather than returning, going back to the 1970s.”
But whether his defense—that he wants change rather than a return to old values—works remains to be seen. In most of his latest tirades against the El Othmani-led government, Benkirane has decried what he saw as El Othmani’s tendency to pander to Moroccan progressives.
The most striking example is a 26-minute video in which, fuming at the draft law on the adoption of French as the language of instruction for science in Moroccan schools, Benkirane lampooned El Othmani and other PJD ministers and MPs who were supportive of the legislative move.
He labeled them “cowards” and “traitors” who have forgotten and “betrayed” the cultural and religious tenets of the Moroccan society, emphatically calling El Othmani out for apparently siding with progressive Moroccans and calling the law a “betrayal of the principles of the party and the [Moroccan] Constitution and its vision.”