During the 1990s and since King Mohamed VI came to power, following his father’s death in 1999, the democratic perspectives for the future of the Kingdom of Morocco improved. Already, gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997. The recent parliamentary elections of 2011 could be seen, despite the relatively low turnout (45%), as a new step towards democracy. The leader of the biggest party in parliament, Abdelilah Benkirane of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development party, has been appointed by the King as Prime Minister of the new government. In 2009 the new centre-right Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) party won the local elections.
Morocco however still has a number of human rights’ issues to resolve, and the international border issue with the Polisario Front over the territory of Western Sahara remains unsettled. Since the accession of Spain to the European Economic Community (now EU) in 1986, Morocco is one of the neighbours of the EU. To strengthen the relationship with these neighbours, the EU signed the Association Agreement with Morocco in 1996 and has developed (since March 2003) the European Neighbourhood Policy, in which Morocco participates.
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The current King, Mohamed VI came to power after the death of his father, King Hassan II, in 1999. While King Hassan II was an autocratic ruler, King Mohamed VI appears to have a different vision for Morocco’s future. Under his leadership, there seems to be a tendency towards more democratic and liberal values in Morocco. Mohamed VI has stressed the need for social and economic reform and the need to tackle problems like poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. In relation to this, NGOs and independent human rights organisations achieved more successes due to the increased possibilities the new regime offered.
Morocco’s political system is carefully evolving from a strongly centralised monarchy to a parliamentary system. The King retains much of the executive power, but Parliament is democratically elected. However, according to independent information provider CountryWatch Inc., democratic gestures and programmes do not mean that any real democratisation is taking place, and King Mohamed VI has, next to economic and social reforms, also reinforced his powerbase by strengthening the army and placing members of his inner circle at important positions in the government. In 2001, a decentralisation process has been launched. The local governors, which are appointed by the King, have achieved more power and that is why this is considered by critics to be a well-groomed way of the King to expand his power.
Local elections 2009
On 12 June local elections were held in Morocco in which nearly 28,000 members from around 30 political parties were to be elected to 1,500 municipal councils. The major winner was a new political party, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) that won 6015 seats. The governing Istiqlal (PI) party followed with 5292 seats. The PJD performed poorly, winning only 7.4%, making no gains compared to previous election. The leftist USFP obtained 11.6% of the vote. By joining the governing Koutla coalition, this party had bet on the critical support to the King.
The official turnout was 52.4 per cent, out of 14 million registered voters. Due to the preceding electoral reforms that set the quota on 12% for women, parties were given incentive to add women candidates to their lists. 3,406 Women were elected (out of 20,458 candidates) against just 127 in 2003. Corruption appeared widespread; courts are considering hundreds of official complaints of bribery, local officials giving preferential treatment to certain candidates, and voter and candidate intimidation.
Movement of February 20
The Arab revolution of 2011 also hit Morocco. On 20 February thousands of Moroccans joined nationwide protests in which they were calling for political reforms. They demanded that King Mohammed VI hands over some of his powers to a newly elected government and makes the justice system more independent. According to Agence Maghreb Arabe Press, about 37,000 people participated in the protests.
Inspired by the pro-democracy protests in the Arab world, a group called the February 20 Movement was formed. It takes its name from the date of its first demonstration and has faced tough resistance from the state security forces. The February 20 Movement is a youth-led network from various ideological backgrounds. Relying mostly on the Internet, the group pressed King Mohammed to establish a parliamentary monarchy, enforce accountability and grant the judiciary full independence.
On 9 March 2011, King Mohammed VI promised ‘comprehensive constitutional reform’ in Morocco and announced the establishment of the committee to work on the constitutional revisions, with proposals to be made to him by June. The monarch promised to hand over the power of appointing the Prime Minister to the parliament, and to provide Morocco’s regions with greater authority, saying it would help consolidate ‘our [Morocco’s] model of democracy and development’.
Despite of the King’s guarantees, the demonstrations continued, and on 22 May Moroccan protesters led by the February 20 movement, took the streets in Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers and Agadir. In a televised speech on 17 June 2011 King Mohammed VI announced a series of constitutional reforms, to be put to a national referendum on 1 July. However, on 19 June about 10,000 protesters rallied in Casablanca against the proposed changes, which they said did not go far enough. The February 20 Movement also rallied in other Moroccan cities, calling for a truly democratic constitution.
Constitutional referendum of July 2011
A national referendum took place on July 1, 2011. Following its results, constitutional amendments were introduced. The new constitution now ensures that the prime minister is selected from the party that received the most votes in elections, rather than chosen by the king. The Prime Minister becomes the ‘President of the Government’, and is able to appoint government officials - an authority previously held by the king. The new Prime Minister is also able to dissolve parliament, the role previously accorded only to Mohammed VI. However, the king remains a key power-broker in the security, military and religious fields. The king continues to chair two key councils - the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Security Council - which make security policy. The Prime Minister can chair these councils, but only using an agenda set by the king.
The voting system was also changed so that the number of parliamentary seats decided on a constituency basis was increased from 295 to 305. Additional seats were reserved for election from national party lists, 60 consisting only of female candidates and 30 for male candidates under the age of 40.
The new reforms were called as legitimate by the Interior Ministry, according to which 98% of those who took part in the referendum on 1 July voted "yes." (turnout was estimated at 73%). However, the opposition said the turnout figure looked inflated and alleged irregularities in voting procedures. The result also followed a state media campaign in favour of the "yes" vote that appealed to a widespread sense of loyalty to the king, who is head of the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty. Furthermore, protesters in Morocco do not think the changes went far enough. The February 20 democracy movement took to the streets on 3 July rejecting the amended constitution.
Parliamentary elections 2011
Following the pro-democracy demonstrations that swept through the country since the beginning of 2011, on 25 November 2011 early elections for the national Assembly of Representatives took place. Big winner of the elections was the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which more than doubled its number of seats to 107 out of the 395 that make up the Lower House. The PJD said it would promote Islamic finance, but would avoid focusing on issues such as alcohol and headscarves for women. These were the first elections since King Mohammed VI introduced constitutional changes intended to dampen Arab Spring protests in the country. Observers noted that although turnout increased compared to the last elections in 2007 (from 37% to 45%), voter enthusiasm was low.
Results of the elections
Justice and Development Party (Parti de la Justice et du Developpment-PJD)
Independence Party (Parti de l'Istiqlal)
National Rally of Independents (Rassemblement National des Indépendents)
Authenticity and Modernity Party (Parti Authenticité et Modernité - PAM)
|Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP)||39||+1|
|Popular Movement (Mouvement Populaire)||32||-9|
|Constitutional Union (Union Constitutionelle)||23||-4|
|Party of Progress and Socialism (Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme)||18||+1|
|Labour Party (Parti Travailliste)||4||-1|
Total (turnout 37%)
The largest left-wing party of Morocco, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), won 39 seats and remained the fifth largest party in the parliament. The Unified Socialist Party (PSU) decided to boycott the elections claiming that the changes in the constitution did not give enough power to the parliament and the prime minister.
PND-Al Ahd Union, the Environment and Development Party, the Alliance of Liberties and the Citizenship and Development Initiative, which at the parliamentary elections of 2007 won 14, 5, 1, 1 seats respectively, merged into the centre-right pro-monarchist Authenticity and Modernity Party, which placed itself on the fourth position in the current parliament.
Turnout for the elections was 45%, up from the historic low of 37% in 2007. The U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) that monitored the elections noted that although the elections were fair and transparent, many ballots (around 20%) were spoiled with protest slogans, raising doubts about voter enthusiasm. Anti-elections protests commenced on the day of campaigning, November 12, and the activists were calling on people to boycott the elections saying that the parliament holds no real power in Morocco, even after the constitutional changes of July 2011 and that the King retains control over religious issues and defence and security affairs. NDI-delegation co-leader Bob Rae remarked that ‘From a technical point of view, it was a fair election, but democracy is about substance as much as form.’
On 3 January 2012 King Mohamed VI appointed the new members of the government led by moderate Islamists. Abdelilah Benkirane, Morocco’s new prime minister and PJD leader, will run a broad coalition including liberals, ex-communists, conservative monarchists and socialists. Under the new constitution, the King has to appoint a representative from the party that has won parliamentary elections. However, the King maintains his important influence on the government. 82% of the Moroccans have confidence in Benkirane’s ability to improve the lives of all Moroccans and lead the new government. The PJD assured that they will not interfere in people’s private lives and said they will not implement a strict religious code. On 29 November 2011 the King appointed Abdelilah Benkirane as Prime Minister.
On 10 January the members of Morocco's new government commenced their work. There are huge expectations at the grassroots which the new government must now meet. For about two thirds of the cabinet ministers and minister delegates this is their first experience in government. Most of them have managerial and or academic expertise in the issues handled by their respective ministries. However, they lack the political experience which can be a huge benefit for launching reforms and enhancing democracy, but also a hindrance in getting programs implemented by the multi-layered government and regional bureaucracies.
The constitutional amendments of July 2011 increased women quota from 30 out of 325 to 60 out of the 395 seats. It means that every party can present one list, consisting of maximum of 60 women candidates. Furthermore, the new changes include the article, according to which women in addition to equal civil and political rights of women, should have equal economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. However, the women quota is still below the 30% quota claimed by women’s movements. At the end of the candidate registration period, women headed less than three percent of local electoral lists. On a local level, the representation of women is very poor. Only 0,5% of the local councillors is women and there is only one female mayor in whole Morocco.
According to an international observation mission organized by National Democratic Institute (NDI), the elections were conducted transparently. The NDI noted that the lack of voter enthusiasm, calls for an election day boycott, and the significant number of invalid and spoiled ballots collectively ‘signal citizen interest in further and deeper reform.’
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United Party of Socialists (Parti Socialiste Unifié)
Leader: Mohamed Moujahid
The PSU was created in 2005 through the merger of the Parti de la Gauche Socialiste Unifiée (PGSU) and the “Fidélité à la Démocratie” association. The PGSU itself had been the result of an earlier merger of four leftist parties in 2002, namely the Organisation de l’Action Démocratique et Populaire (Organisation of Democratic and Popular Action), the Mouvement des Démocrates Indépendants (Movement of Independent Democrats), the Movement pour la Démocratie (Movement for Democracy) and the Personnalités Indépendantes de Gauche (Independent Persons of the Left).
The PSU is a socialist party which strives for “a dignified life and equitable distribution”. According to the PSU, their program is founded on the principles of modernity, rationalism, and citizenship. The party wishes to change the constitution so as to curb the powers of the king and turn Morocco into a constitutional monarchy. PSU furthermore wishes to increase the Moroccan’s sense of citizenship through education, training and cooperation with NGOs and grassroots movements. Important issues for the party are equal access to quality education and healthcare; the creation of employment; development of rural areas and environmental protection; the fight against corruption; the modernisation of the administration; and greater independence of the judiciary. PSU furthermore actively supports gender equality and equal opportunities for minorities and disabled. Within the party, a women network and a youth organisation are active.
The PSU boycotted the parliamentary elections of 2011.
Socialist Union of People’s Forces (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires. USFP)
Leader: M. Mohamed Elyazghi
The USFP is the successor of the “Union Nationale des Forces Populaires” (UNFP, the party was renamed USFP in 1975), which was created in January 1959, following internal division in the Istiqlal Party. The USFP, which had led the 1997 government, lost 7 seats in the 2002 elections, and another 12 seats in the 2007 elections. The party holds nowadays 38 seats in parliament and is the fifth party in parliament. Despite the big loss of seats, USFP kept its place in the coalition government. The party formed a government with Istiqlal, PPS and the National Rally of Independents.
After its creation, the USFP held it’s next congress in 1962. In the first legislative elections of the country, in 1963, the new party was a success and the leaders of the UNFP (among which Mehdi Ben Barka, who disappeared mysteriously in 1963 in Paris) were voted into parliament. Under the reign of King Hassan (1961-1999), the USFP was frequently harassed by the regime. In 1963 and 1981, Party leaders were kidnapped and the Party press (newspapers "Al Moharrir” and "Libération") was forced to close down. In 1993 the democratic bloc “la Koutla Démocratique” was created by the USFP together with Istiqlal, PPS and OADP. In 1997 they formed the government together with their allies from the Koutla, which have been opposition in the past. In the run-off of 2007 elections, the USFP incorporated the Parti Socialiste Democratique (PSD) and won 38 seats in the parliament. Following the results of the parliamentary elections of 2011, USFO obtained one more seat (totally - 39 seats).
Highlights of the USFP program are to integrate young unemployed people into the labour force, to maintain and stimulate the development of the Moroccan arts and handicrafts and their cultural values, and the adoption of local projects in order to promote investment and employment.
The USFP is member of the Socialist International.
Website (French): http://www.usfp.ma/index.php
Parti Travailliste (Labour Party)
Leader: Abdelkrim Benatiq (former banker and labour unionist)
At the end of 2005, Abdelkrim Benatiq, Omar Seghrouchni, Mohamed el-Ouchari took the initiative to create the Labour Party (Parti Travailliste). The party was founded on 14 and 15 May 2006 at the party’s first party conference.
The party’s ideology is not clear yet. Initially, the party placed itself on the left of the political spectrum. Later, however, the party changed to a more centre-left party. The party itself states that it is a party for workers and middle-class people. The lack of a clear profile is also caused by the fact that the party so far hasn’t been part of any alliance with other political parties. In an interview before the 2007 parliamentary elections, party leader Benatiq stated that the most important task of political parties for the coming years in Morocco is to restore the credibility of the parliament. In the parliamentary elections of 2011, the Parti Travailliste won 4 seats in the Moroccan parliament.
Democratic and Social Movement (Mouvement Démocratique et Social)
Leader: M. Mahmoud Archane
Created 15 June 1996 from splinters from the MNP. The party has 2 seats in parliament.
Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party)
Leader: Abdelmajid Bouzoubaâ
The Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) was founded on 29 April 2006 by former members of the “Mouvement Solicaliste Marocain”. The founders protested against the level of intern democracy within the “Mouvement Socialiste Marocain”.
The party’s main objectives are threefold: 1) political and constitutional changes, 2) cultural, social and economic reforms and 3) territorial integrity. Just like the Parti Travailliste, the Parti Socialiste tries to restore the political credibility of the Moroccan politics.
As stated earlier, the Parti Socialiste has the objective to strive for political changes. Party leader Abdelmajid Bouzoubaâ stated that he Morrocan politics should be “reorganised” in a system with only three poles: left, centre and right. He stated to regret the current fragmentation on the left side of the political spectrum.In the 2011 parliamentary elections, the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) did not win any seats in parliament.
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Party of Justice and Development (Parti de la Justice et du Développement)
Leader: Abdelillah Benkirane
The Party of Justice and Development was created as the “Constitutional and Democratic Popular Movement” (MPDC) from splinters of the Popular Movement (MP) in January 1967 (the Party changed its name to PJD in October 1998). The Party is moderate Islamist and a growing force in the country. The Islamist PJD carefully paves the way for a more religious orientated Morocco by creating the image of being the true defender of the Muslim state. The PJD presents itself as the only party which can bring problems such as corruption, poverty and the loosening of traditional values by the parties in power to an end.
Before 2003 the electoral program of the PJD had five key points: authenticity, sovereignty, democracy, equality and development – everything in accordance with Islam. After the 2003 Casablanca-bombings, the party changed its political profile by becoming more pragmatic and less critical about the Western influences in Morocco. This pragmatic profile seemed to pay-off in the run-off to the parliamentary elections of 2007. The opinion-polls showed a great victory for the PJD, with the possibility of winning up to 80 seats. However, the outcomes of the elections were a big disappointment for the PJD. The party won only 46 seats in 2007, but it rehabilitated itself by winning the majority of the seats in the 2011 elections (107).
Website (Arabic, French in progress): http://www.pjd.ma/arabe/index.asp
Independence Party - Istiqlal Party/Parti d’Indépendance
Leader: M. Abbas El Fassi
The Istiqlal/Independence Party (Istiqlal/Parti d’Indépendence) was founded in 1944, as an umbrella group of Moroccans fighting for independence from France. In 1993, the party became on of the parties of the democratic bloc “Koutla” and was part of the new government of 1997. Ever since, Istiqlal is in government. Today, Istiqlal is the nationalist party of Morocco and the party in power, functioning in line with the Moroccan Monarchy. Key points of the Istiqlal Party are: the connection with Islam and the constitutional monarchy and the throne, the safeguarding of Morocco’s cultural identity, the realisation of economical and social equality, the development of the economy and the reduction of economic and social differences between the regions. Istiqlal also wants to offer more attention to the position of Moroccans living abroad.
In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the Istiqlal-party became the biggest party in parliament with a total of 52 seats. In 2011 elections the party lost to the PJD, but won 8 seats more (60 seats in total), thus becoming the second largest party in the parliament.
Website (French): http://www.Istiqlal.ma/sommaire.php3
National Rally of Independents (Rassemblement National des Indépendents, RNI)
Leader: M. Ahmed Osman
Since it was created in 1978 by the ‘SAP’ (Sans Appartenance Politique) deputies of the 1977 elections, the RNI strives for the realisation of its goals: the promotion of social democracy within the constitutional monarchy, the preservation of the Arab-African Moroccan identity and the defence of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom. In the context of this program, the RNI calls for the realisation of a social project, aimed at the creation of a solid and competitive economy, which guarantees labour places, the development of the country, and reform of the legal system as well as the tax system - which in turn must encourage private investment. The RNI has 52 seats in the Moroccan parliament forming the third largest party.
Authenticity and Modernity Party (Parti Authenticité et Modernité, PAM)
Leader: Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah
The Authenticity and Modernity Party was founded in 2008 with the initial aim to strengthen the power of the king in Morocco. It is a centre-right party, composed now of the Environment and Development Party, PND-Al Ahd Union, the Alliance of Liberties and the Citizenship and Development Initiative that merged with the PAM in 2010. The new union won 47 seats in the 2011 parliamentary elections.
Popular Movement (Mouvement Populaire)
Leader: M. Mohamed Laenser (Secretary General), Mahjoubi Ahardane (President)
The People’s Movement (MP) was constructed in 1959. The program of the MP rests on various principles related to Morocco’s political and cultural identity, the promotion of private initiative, increasing the dynamism of the productive and growing sectors of Morocco’s economy, the realisation of social equality and the regulation of state intervention in the economical and social life. The party is a member of the Liberal International since 2003.
In 2006, the People’s Movement merged with the National Popular Movement (MNP) and the Democratic Union (UD). In the 2011 elections, the party decreased its number of seats by 9: from 41 in 2007 to 32 in 2011.
Website (French): http://www.harakamp.org.ma/
Constitutional Union (Union Constitutionelle)
Leader: Mohamed Abied
Member of the Liberal International since 2003. The UC was created in 1983; and has been part of governments in the past several times. The party is considered to be close to the palace or at least to the administration. Mohamed Abied is Party leader since 2001. In the 2011 elections, the party decreased its share of seats: from 27 in 2007 to 23 in 2011.
Party of Progress and Socialism (Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme)
Leader: M. Ismaïl Alaoui
The PPS considers itself to be the legitimate heir – of the organisation, the ideology as well as the political orientation – to the Moroccan Communist Party (Parti Communiste Marocain, 1943-1968) and the Party of Liberation and Socialism (Parti de la Libération et du Socialisme, 1968-1969). In 1993, the PPS became member of the democratic bloc “Koutla” and in 1997 member of the government, together with Istiqlal, USFP and OADP. The PPS defines itself as an independent, social democratic, progressive national party, which respects the socialist principles, the militant traditions of the Moroccan people, the Arab-Amazigh culture and the values of Islam. The Party counts intellectuals as well as manual workers among its supporters.
M. Ismaïl Alaoui is party leader since 1997. As party-leader he ran in the 2007 parliamentary elections, but didn’t win his seat. The PPS publishes two daily national newspapers (“Al-Bayane” and “Bayane Al Youm”). In the 2011 parliamentary elections, the PPS won 18 seats in parliament.
Website (French): http://www.pps-maroc.org/francais/index_f.htm
Front of Democratic Forces (Front des Forces Démocratiques)
Leader: M. Thami Khyari
Founded 22 June 1997 by splinters of PPS. In the 2011 elections, the party won only 1 seat, 7 less than in the 2007 elections.
Party of Renaissance and Virtue (Parti de la Renaissance et de la Vertu)
Leader : Mohamed Khalidi
The Party of Renaissance and Virtue was founded on 25 December 2005.
Religious party. Among the party-members there are former members of a variety of parties, of which the Justice and Development Party and the Istiqlal-party are the most important.
Party-leader declared that the party is a national democratic party with connections to the Islam and with the objective of modernisation and democratisation. The party also empathises the importance of social justice for the Moroccan party. In the parliamentary elections, the party did not win any seats.
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King Mohammed VI
Mohammad al-Hasssan was born on 21 August 1963, son of at that time King Hassan II and Lalla Latifa Hammou. Mohammed VI is Morocco’s third king since the country gained independence from France in 1956.
Mohammed VI went to law school in Rabat and earned a master’s degree in Political Science in 1987 and a doctorate in law from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis in France. In 2002 he was awarded a honorary doctorate from the George Washington University. He ascended to the throne on 23 July 1999 upon the death of his father. Shortly after he became king, he announced some reforms and promised to take on poverty and corruption. However, Morocco remained an authoritarian monarchy and in February 2011 protests against the power of Mohammed VI broke out. The King of Morocco holds vast executive powers, including dissolving parliament at will. In a speech on 17 June King Mohammed VI proposed constitutional changes, but about 10,000 protesters rallied in Casablanca against his proposals, which they said did not go far enough. In July 2011 the changes to the electoral legislation and to the rendering of some of the king’s power to the prime minister were introduced.
King Mohammed is married with Salma Bennani. They have a son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, born in 2003, and a daughter, Princess Lalla Khadija, born in 2007.
Abdelillah Benkirane was appointed as Prime Minister on 29 November 2011, after early parliamentary elections. In early December 2011 an poll was published in which more than 82 percent of Moroccans have expressed confidence in newly appointed Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s ability to run government. 43 percent of those polled said they were “fully confident” and a further 39 percent said they were “reasonably confident.” The opinion poll was carried out from Dec. 2 to 5 on a sample of 1,000 people. Mr Abdelillah Benkirane has been a leader of the parliamentary election winner Justice and Development Party (PJD) since July 2008. Benkirane's politics are democratic and Islamist. He is married to a party activist and has six children.
Mohamed Mujahid was born in 1961 in Douar Klai, a small village a few kilometers from the city of Taounate. He graduated from the faculty of Medicine in 1993 and worked in a public health sector. From 1990 to 2002 he was Secretary General of the Movement of Independent Democrats. From 2001 to 2004 Mohamed Mujahid was Secretary General of Unified Socialist Party of Morocco. He is the current Secretary General of the United Party of Socialists (Parti Socialiste Unifié).
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