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In October 2016 parliamentary elections were held in Morocco. The resounding victory belonged to the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which became for the second time in a row the biggest party with a number of 125 seats. It's main opponent, the secular and royalist Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) doubled its representation in parliament to 102. The largest left-wing party of Morocco, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), lost half of its 39 seats and became the sixth largest party of the country.

The parliamentary elections of 2016 could be seen, despite the relatively low turnout (43%), as a consolidation of the constitution which was implemented in 2011 and a continuation of Morocco’s democratic process. Constitutional changes were announced by the King following nationwide protests that started in February 2011 which called for political reforms. Protesters and several smaller parties continue organising demonstrations because they find that the constitutional changes did not go far enough and demand a truly democratic constitution.
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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.

20 February Movement
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 20 February 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.

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On 3 January 2012 King Mohamed VI appointed the new members of the government led by the PJD, and headed by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. A coalition was formed between the PJD, Istiqlal, PM and PPS. 

On 10 October 2013, there was a government reshuffle. The new government, which keeps the leader of the PJD Abdelilah Benkirane as Prime Minister, ended months of negotiating after the conservative Istiglal party pulled out of the government. Istiqlal left the coalition in July in a dispute over cuts and other issues. The center-right National Rally of Independents (RNI), which is close to the King, will replace ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party. Morocco's King named 19 new ministers after the prime minister reached a deal to form a new coalition that weakened the ruling Islamists who are trying to push through unpopular reforms to subsidies and the pensions system. The king increased the number of ministers to 39 from 30 and put the RNI in key ministries such as interior, finance and foreign affairs.

Gender issues
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.

Regional and municipal elections 2015
On 4 September regional and municipal elections were held in Morocco that saw the ruling Islamist leaning PJD took control of the major cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, Marrakesh and Agadir. The liberal PAM won the most local seats, with the conservative Independence Party (Istiqlal) in second place. Istiqlal lost its traditional stronghold Fez to the PJD, but remained strong overall. These parties fetched their support mostly from the more conservative rural areas. The opposition National Coalition of Independents (RNI) came in fourth, while the Popular Movement (MP) secured the fifth spot. The leftish parties did not perform well in the elections. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) lost seats in both its strongholds Rabat and Agadir, and gained just 7% of the vote overall. The party of Progress and Socialism only participated for regional seats and won just 3% of the vote. The Democratic Left Federation (FGD), a coalition of the Socialist Democratic Vanguard party (PADS), the National Ittihadi Congress Party (CNI) and the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), came second in Rabat’s Agdal Riad constituency and 9 of its councilors were elected.

As a result of the elections, each of the 12 regions in the country will have a directly elected council with wide capacities. This is part of a reform plan designed by the new constitution that focusses on a higher level of decentralization and moves away from the traditional centralized and bureaucratic system. The voter turnout was 53.67%, slightly higher than during the last local elections. Ahead of the elections 1.1 million new voters, of which 46% were women, were registered. Despite some irregularities reported by independent observers, there were no major incidents and election day was calm.

Party regional results municipal results
Justice and Developement (PJD) 174 (26%) 5021 (16%)
Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) 132 (19%) 6655 (21%)
Independence Party (Istiqlal) 119 (18%) 5106 (16%)
National Coalition of Independents (RNI) 90 (13%) 4408 (14%)
Popular Movement (MP) 58 (9%) 3007 (10%)
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) 48 (7%) 2656 (8%)
Party of Progress and Socialism 23 (3%) -

Parliamentary elections 2016
On 7 October 2016 the second elections for the House of Representatives after the 2011 protests and constitutional renewal took place. Winner was the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), increasing its number of seats in parliament by 18 to 125. The main opposition, the secular and royalist Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) increased its presence in parliament by 55 to 102. In third with 46 seats came the Istiqlal party, which presented itself as an “alternative” to the new bipolarity. The National Rally of Independents (RNI) went down from 52 to 37 seats. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) saw its representation in the parliament nearly halve, from 39 seats in the previous elections, to 20 seats this time around. The Popular Movement (MP) gained 27 seats, the Constitutional Union (UC) 19, the Party of Progress and Socialism 12 (PPS), the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS) 3 and 1 seat for both the Unity and Democracy Party (PUD) and the Green Left Party (PGV). The Unified Socialist Party (PSU) cooperated with two other parties (PADS and CNI) in the Federation of the Democratic Left and won 2 seats.

These were the second elections since King Mohammed VI introduced constitutional changes intended to dampen Arab Spring protests in the country. Voter turnout was with only 43 percent slightly lower than last elections (45%). Reportedly, turnout remained low because of the people’s loss in confidence in Moroccan politics, followed by the failure of parties to make sustainable changes and to translate their promises into true achievements.

Political Party
Seats won
Justice and Development Party - PJD 125 +18
Authenticity and Modernity Party - PAM 102
Independence Party - Istiqlal 46 -14
National Rally of Independents - NRI
Popular Movement - MP 27 -5
Socialist Union of Popular Forces - USFP 20 -19
Constitutional Union - UC 19 -4
Party of Progress and Socialism - PPS 12 -6
Federation of the Democratic Left - FDG  2 +2
Other  2 -
Total (turnout 43%)

The largest left-wing party of Morocco, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), lost half of its seats and will be present with 20 representatives in parliament. The United Socialist Party (PSU), led by Endocrinology Professor Nabila Mounib, participated for the first time in the parliamentary elections, after boycotting the vote in 2011 due to concerns about the limited scope of the constitution. Together with two other parties (PADS and CNI) it united in the Federation of the Democratic Left and gained 2 seats.  

Elections monitoring
Following the invitation of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) observed the parliamentary elections with seven teams of observers. The PACE delegation, led by Ian Liddell-Grainger, welcomed the professionalism of the authorities, who organized the poll with integrity and in full transparency. It commended the professionalism and courtesy of the members of the polling stations that the delegation met during its visit. In addition, it welcomes changes in legislation opening the young people list to women and the choice made by some parties to include a majority of women in their young people lists: it regrets that these and other legislative changes were made only at a late stage.

PACE noted that some aspects of the electoral process could be improved. Cases of electoral fraud were reported, even though the members of the delegation did not see them. PACE will investigate these cases. Furthermore, the delegation advised the Moroccan government to create an independent Central Electoral Commission. It also regrets that the current voters’ registration system and the awareness campaign have not produced a turnout higher than in 2011, particularly among young voters, and notes the surprisingly high amount of spoilt ballot papers. The late release of party programmes/manifestos might have been one of the reasons for the low turnout, the delegation said. Finally, the organisation of the polling stations in a more structured manner could be improved; particularly in the counting process.

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Socialist Union of People’s Forces (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires - USFP)
Leader: Driss Lachgar

The USFP is the successor of the “Union Nationale des Forces Populaires” (UNFP) which was created in January 1959, following internal division in the Istiqlal Party. In 1975 the name changed to USFP. The USFP, which had led the 1997 government, lost seats every election that followed. The party holds nowadays 20 seats in parliament and is the sixth party in parliament.

After its creation, the USFP held its 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.

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):

Parti Travailliste (Labour Party)
Leader: Abdelkrim Benatiq (labour unionist)

At the end of 2005, Abdelkrim Benatiq, Omar Seghrouchni and 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. The 2016 elections marked the exit of the party from parliament.

United Party of Socialists (Parti Socialiste Unifié)

Leader: Nabila Mounib

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. During the 2016 parliamentary elections the party won 2 seats as part of the Fédération de la gauche démocratique (Federation of the Democratic Left).

Party of Progress and Socialism (Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme)
Leader: Nabil Benabdallah

The Party of Progress and Socialism was founded in 1974 as the sucessor of the Moroccan Communist Party and the Party of Liberation and Socialism. It distanced itself from communism after the disintegration of the Soviet-Union. The PPS was part of the coalition governments of Abbas El Fassi (Istiqlal) and Adelillah Benkirane (PJD). It won 12 seats during the last parliamentary elections in 2016.

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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 (106) and in the 2016 elections (125).

Website (Arabic, French in progress):

Group istiqlali of unity and egalitarianism - Istiqlal Party/Parti d’Indépendance
Leader: Nourdin Moudian

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 one of the parties of the democratic bloc “Koutla” and was part of the new government of 1997. Ever since, Istiqlal is part of the 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 nine seats more (61 seats in total), thus becoming the second largest party in the parliament. The result of the parliamentary elections of 2016 was 46 seats.

Website (French):

National Rally of Independents (Rassemblement National des Indépendents, RNI)
Leader: Ouadia Benabdellah

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 37 seats in the Moroccan parliament forming the fourth largest party.

Authenticity and Modernity Party (Parti Authenticité et Modernité, PAM)
Leader: Ilyas El Omari

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. In the 2016 elections PAM doubled its number of seats to a total of 102, making it the second largest party in Morocco.

Popular Movement (Harakat parti)
Leader: Nabil Belgayat Benamar

The group movement is also known as the Harakat parti and represents the Berber community in Maroc. The party has 33 seats in parliament.
Website :

Group of Constitutional Union (Union Constitutionelle)
Leader: Belassal Chaoui

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.

Democratic and Social Movement (Mouvement Démocratique et Social)
Leader: Mahmoud Archane

The MDS is a centre-right party created on 15 June 1996 from splinters from the National Popular Movement (MNP). It entered the Parliament in 1997 with 32 seats. In consecutive elections the party gained around 9 seats. The party has currently 3 seats in parliament.

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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
Prime Minister and PJD leader

abdelilah_benkirane_davos.jpgAbdelillah 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.

Driss Lachgar
Leader Socialist Union of People’s Forces (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires - USFP)

driss_lachgar.jpgDriss Lachgar, born 1954 in Rabat, is the party leader of the USFP. Between 2010 and 2012 he held the position of Minister of Relations with the Parliament. Before Lachgar entered parliament he was a lawyer. Lachgar was elected by an overwhelming majority and received 198 votes more than his opponent. After he was elected he reached out to all the party members, including his rivals, urging them to join efforts to breathe new life into the USFP. “The USFP needs all its components and all its skills,” he told the media, assuring that the party will not be run by one single person but that the management will be collegial.

Abdelkrim Benatiq    
Leader Parti Travailliste
Abdelkrim Benatiq is de party leader of the labour party. In 2000 he was appointed State Secretary of the Minister of Social Economy. In 2001 he changed to Secretary of State for Trade. In 2005 he resigned from the USPF party in order to start his own party. He did this in the same year under the name labour party.

Nabila Mounib
Leader United Party of Socialists (Parti Socialiste Unifié)

Nabila Mounib was born in 1960 in Casablanca. She is a university professor and the first female leader of the PSU. She is in power since 2012. Mounib works at the University of Hassan II in Casablanca and is Regional Secretary of the National Union of higher education.

Hamid Chabat
Leader Group istiqlali of unity and egalitarianism - Istiqlal Party/Parti d’Indépendance

hamid_chabat.jpgHamid Chabat was born in 1953. He started his career at a motorcycle assembly in Fes and became known for his active participation in this region. Eventually he became the leader of the General Union of Workers of Morocco. In 2002 he became a member of the Fes region in the House of Representatives and was elected mayor of this city one year later. He also owns a regional newspaper concerning the Fes region. In 2012 he was elected party leader.

Ouadia Benabdellah
Leader National Rally of Independents (Rassemblement National des Indépendents, RNI)

Ouadia Benabdellah is an architect and party leader of the RNI. Within his political career he pays extra attention to the promotion of women’s representation and the fight against illegal means during elections.

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Flag of Morocco Morocco

Last update: 11 October 2016
Author: -

Population: 33.1 million (World Bank 2013 est.)
Prime Minister: Abdelillah Benkirane (since November 2011)
President: King Mohammed VI (since July 1999)
Governmental type: Constitutional monarchy
Ruling Coalition: -
Last Elections: Early Parliamentary 25 November, 2011
Next Election: Parliamentary 2016
Sister Parties: Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP (full member)

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