The controversial politician’s return from Turkey raised questions among activists and political observers as to whether his comeback means he will participate in Morocco’s 2021 elections.
Rabat – With Morocco’s national elections around the corner, a local debate has emerged following the return of controversial ex-secretary general of the Al Istiqlal (Independence) party, Hamid Chabat.
The politician returned to Morocco in October 2020 after living in Turkey for over three years.
Chabat, who is still considered an MP, left Morocco in 2017 after losing his position as secretary general of Al Istiqlal.
The trip to Turkey after his defeat followed several controversies.
Chabat in the public eye
In December 2016, the Al Istiqlal member stirred backlash after claiming that Morocco’s borders extend from “Ceuta in the north to the Senegal river in the south.”
The statement implied that Mauritania is part of Morocco’s territory, which caused a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
With his return to Morocco, several political observers centered Chabat in the scoop, suggesting that his return is suspicious, especially as September elections are quickly approaching.
The politician surprised many after his participation in some Parliament sessions, as if he was part of Morocco’s political life after leaving his seat empty for several years.
Chabat’s presence in Parliament ignited criticism and backlash.
The politician has faced several accusations linked to corruption over the years. News reports on his involvement in such cases went viral in Morocco. A report in 2017 claimed that a court received a complaint from the National Authority for the Evaluation of Local Affairs and Fighting Corruption.
The complaint included allegations of embezzlement, imbalances, and manipulation during his term as a mayor of Fez.
Some media see Chabat’s return to Morocco’s political life as possible, especially as the politician recently increased his presence on social networks.
Chabat has a wide community of supporters, including in Fez. He served as the city’s mayor for more than 12 years, between 2003 and 2015. He stepped down from the position after his defeat in 2016 to Idriss Azami Al-Idrissi, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD).
Others, however, see his return as a provocative move given the “scandals” and “controversies” in which he mired himself before he departed Morocco.
Al Istiqlal and electoral integrity
Amid concerns as to whether Hamid Chabat will submit his candidacy for a provincial position in the city of Fez during the next election, the Al Istiqlal Party Executive Committee decided to shun any attempts.
Assabah newspaper cited sources from Al Istiqlal, confirming that the current secretary-general of the party, Nizar Baraka, put in place a “veto” to prevent Chabat’s potential candidacy in the election.
The executive committee “unanimously” approved Baraka’s decision, the source added.
The party wants to make sure that no one would run for elections after the end of a previous term as secretary-general, and Hamid Chabat is no exception.
Abdelouahed El Anssari, member and the coordinator of the Al Istiqlal Party, confirmed the news indirectly in a Facebook post on February 9, citing a press release from his political party.
The coordinator emphasized that some media published news related to the decision of his party on the upcoming legislative elections in Fez.
“We inform you that the party is still deliberating on the issue of elections in this city based on a report submitted by a committee and it has not decided yet about the candidates to whom recommendations will be granted.”
The coordinator said his party has put an end to previous rumors regarding recommendations for the upcoming elections
The party, according to the politician, emphasized the importance of renewing the body’s spirit, opening up to new faces, including youth, women, and party executives who are active and committed to participating in elections.
Morocco will hold its next elections in September 2021.
It remains to be seen whether the new government will include new faces.