The biggest winner in Morocco’s elections
Morocco’s success in the country’s second free legislative elections is indicative of King Mohammed VI’s foresight and leadership. The result is the peaceful coexistence in the same legislative body of “Justice”, an Islamic party, and “Authenticity”, a civil-state party.
The biggest winner in the elections is Morocco itself. Its citizens demonstrated their capacity to improve political life in their country without resorting to extremism or violence. Since the popular approval of the country’s 2011 constitution, Moroccans have shown a clear determination to carry on with reforms on all levels.
Islamists in Morocco understood the message. They accepted the democracy game and tried to benefit from it. They proved that they were practically the only party in Morocco that is well organised and disciplined. Naturally, they won the legislative election by securing 125 of the 395 available seats. That’s an increase of 18 seats from the previous election.
By winning the election for the second time and after five years in power, the Justice and Development Party (JDP) demonstrated that it can resist the usual “rusting” that befalls most parties in power. It also demonstrated that it enjoys a solid popular base that is not affected by any kind of failure or scandal, including the sex scandals which have smeared some of the party leadership from both sexes.
The JDP has indeed improved its position in the parliament while much older parties, including the Independence Party, were unable to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of their traditional voting bases. The Independence Party did secure 41 seats but the real rising star in the voting was the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which came in second.
Under the leadership of Ilyas el-Omari, PAM claimed 102 seats in the new parliament. Because of fundamental differences of vision and orientations, it is difficult to predict an alliance between the JDP and PAM. The JDP has repeatedly claimed its independence from the Muslim Brotherhood but having a strong secular party facing the Islamists can only be beneficial to Morocco. It is all about balance of power.
The fact that there are two powerful parties eyeing each other in the new parliament does not mean that the remaining parties in Morocco should simply step aside. On the contrary, they should strive to transform and improve themselves so that one day there will be real pluralism in heading the government.
The elections were also significant in signalling that Morocco, a country lacking significant natural resources, is assuredly continuing on the road to development and democracy. Moderation is the hallmark of this march. It enables the country to improve in all spheres by relying on its citizens, the focus of attention of King Mohammed VI and Morocco’s principal wealth.
In Morocco, the peaceful coexistence of different religions and different nationalities is possible. Education is given high priority and the king himself supports and encourages the teaching and learning of foreign languages. There is a general conviction that teaching foreign languages does not in any way affect the importance and preservation of Arabic in the country.
It is also not an accident that the recent elections were peaceful. With the general acceptance of the 2011 constitution, free and democratic elections have become normal. Despite the JDP’s comfortable majority in the new parliament, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, the JDP leader, will refrain from ignoring the views and ambitions of other parties or exclude them from decisions of national importance.
Morocco’s Islamists will seek the participation of people from both the right and the left of the political spectrum in forming the new government. The reason is that none of the parties in Morocco is capable of imposing its agenda and its policy choices on the others. More importantly, nobody is willing or can veer from the national choices represented essentially by preserving the country’s territorial integrity and citizen rights, particularly women’s rights.
It is also significant that all regions and districts enthusiastically took part in the elections, especially the desert districts.
While its neighbours are stuck in the past, Morocco has its eyes fixed on the future. The recent elections are just a glimpse of that bright future envisioned for his kingdom by King Mohammed VI. It is this vision that enabled Morocco to intelligently sidestep the pitfalls of the “Arab spring” and effectively progress towards more openness and development.