In Morocco, reforms stalled with no government formed

Moroccan Prime Minister Benkirane

Morocco is paying the political and economic price for the inability to form a government three months after the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the most seats in parliamentary elections, analysts said.
Uncertainty resurfaced January 8th when Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, the PJD leader, declared “the end of negotiations” with the National Rally of Independence (RNI) party to form a government after failing to come to an agreement on the parties that should join them.
The RNI conditioned its participation in an Islamist-led government with a bloc including the Constitutional Union (UC), the Popular Movement (MP) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) while ruling out any alliance with the Istiqlal Party (PI).
The PJD won 125 seats in the October vote. The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) took 102 seats. Istiqlal was third with 46 seats while the RNI holds 37 seats and the MP has 27. The PJD needs to form a coalition that includes at least 198 seats in the 395-member House of Representatives.
“The blockade (in forming a government) is going to delay the reforms that are needed for the country’s development as there is no functional parliament to approve them as a result of the delay in voting for the government’s budget,” said analyst Mohammed Afry.
Mohamed Amine Mansouri Id¬rissi, who said he voted for the first time in the October elections, described the political deadlock as “ridiculous”.
“This situation today is frankly ridiculous. It is a coup against democracy and people’s will,” said Idrissi, founder of the Afrique Strategie firm. “The aberration is such that the party, which has had a fraction of votes with a game of alliance, wants to impose its diktat as if Moroccans had voted for the four parties as one.
“The economic wait-and-see that results from the political blockade is very costly because it negatively impacts Morocco’s image of stability and globally reflects on the overall business climate.”
The stalemate is likely to affect Moroccan political parties’ credibility further after the voter turn¬out was relatively low in October despite heavy public awareness campaigns on the importance of participating in the elections. Afry said the delay would backfire on political parties’ image.
“I lost faith in politics,” said medical doctor Youssef Oukessou. “We haven’t seen any changes in terms of fighting corruption.”
Two royal advisers met with Benkirane at the end of December to express King Mohammed VI’s concern over the delay in forming the government. This pushed the PJD leader to open new talks with RNI after announcing that the PI would not be part of the next government.
Some analysts are predicting the Moroccan monarch might intervene in the political impasse. King Mohammed VI could designate another PJD figure to lead the negotiations if Benkirane steps down or he could pressure the political parties to reach an agreement at a time when Morocco is seeking to reintegrate with the African Union.
A source close to the Interior Ministry told the Arab Weekly that rumours of holding new elections were “utterly false”.
“The political parties will restart negotiations straight after the parliament elects a speaker,” the same source said.
The PJD’s parliamentary group will meet today to designate a speaker to pave the way for the parliament to ratify the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
King Mohammed VI chaired last Tuesday a ministerial council in Marrakech during which the Constitutive Act of the African Union and its additional protocol were adopted as Morocco readies its return to the African bloc at the end of January.
The fallout from the “Arab spring” protests in Morocco helped the PJD win the elections in 2011 and lead the country for the past five years, which have been marked by political and economic stability and a rise in foreign investment despite numerous ongoing conflicts in the region.