Divisions grip Morocco’s leading opposition party

Some PAM members accused Benchamach of taking unilateral decisions that damaged the party’s political credibility and divided the party with legislative elections coming in 2021.
Sunday 02/06/2019
Hakim Benchamach, Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) secretary-general. (Twitter)
In the crosshairs. Hakim Benchamach, Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) secretary-general. (Twitter)

CASABLANCA - Morocco’s leading opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party is facing one of its worst crises since its inception in 2008 amid growing divisions in its leadership.

Hakim Benchamach, Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) secretary-general, dismissed Ahmed Akchichine, president of the Marrakech-Safi region, for sowing division and amplifying tensions in the party.

Akchichine was appointed in January to the PAM political bureau with a mission to lead implementation of a plan Benchamach had introduced to unite the party around a single project. A few months later,  Benchamach accused Akchichine, one of the party’s founders, of failing to advance the road map and acting against party reunification.

“Akchichine directly intervened to abort the national meeting commemorating the 11th year of the Movement for All Democrats when all the measures had been taken to implement this initiative,” said Benchamach in a statement published on the party’s website.

“He was also involved in sowing division, fomenting tension and actively taking part in the coup against democratic legitimacy and the regular organising regulations of every self-respected party institution, as happened on May 18, 2019, during the meeting for the election of the president of the preparatory committee for the party’s fourth national congress,” he added.

Benchamach’s decision came a few days after Akchichine and 11 other members of the political bureau signed a statement rejecting decisions made by the party leader, including the dismissal of Mohamed Hamouti from the presidency of the federal office.

Fatima-Zahra Mansouri, president of the party’s national council, PAM’s highest decision-making body, criticised the party’s “chaotic state” after Akchichine’s dismissal.

“The organisational situation of our party has been unhealthy for a while and has led to negative decisions and behaviour that can inevitably lead to the collapse of the party if they are not settled with wisdom and maturity,” warned Mansouri in a statement.

She blamed organisational mistakes, the race to power without awareness of the collective belonging to the party and the overtaking of the party apparatus under cover of personal calculations for sinking the party into an “unenviable soap opera.”

Political analyst Hafid Ezzahri said that PAM was going through a structural crisis and a crisis of identity.

“The struggle within PAM is a personal struggle rather than a political one on the basis of a particular ideology because of the party’s components whose interests differ,” said Ezzahri.

Some PAM members accused Benchamach of taking unilateral decisions that damaged the party’s political credibility and divided the party with legislative elections coming in 2021.

Abdellatif Ouahbi, a member of PAM’s federal bureau, told Alyaoum24 that Benchamach “will inevitably continue to expel his opponents to the last person” with the backing of former PAM leader Ilyass El Omari.

“Omari is doing his job… We have a long list of his contacts with the party’s leading members and his pressure to create an appropriate atmosphere for Benchamach to eliminate his opponents,” said Ouahbi.

News website Hespress quoted sources as saying that Benchamach’s end as party leader was only a matter of time because many members had switched support to Akchichine, Mansouri and Hamouti.

PAM finished second in the 2015 elections with 80 seats in parliament after the Islamist party of Justice and Development.

Experts predicted PAM would win fewer seats in 2021 in the political climate that is gripping the divided party.

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