Moroccan Islamist party accused of exploiting pandemic

Three members of the Movement for Unity and Reform Movement, the proselytising arm of the JDP.
Tuesday 31/03/2020
A 2017 file picture shows Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani of the Islamist Justice and Development Party giving a speech at the PJD party headquarters in Rabat. (Reuters)
Electoral motives. A 2017 file picture shows Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani of the Islamist Justice and Development Party giving a speech at the PJD party headquarters in Rabat. (Reuters)

RABAT - Islamists in Morocco are using the coronavirus pandemic to start a recruitment electoral campaign ahead of next year’s general elections that analysts predicted will marginalise the Islamists, critics claimed.

Islamists’ actions sparked criticism against the ruling the Justice and Development Party (JDP) for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Three members of the Movement for Unity and Reform Movement, the proselytising arm of the JDP, were arrested in northern Morocco, accused of distributing food and supplies to movement supporters but excluding other residents.

In south-eastern Morocco, authorities arrested members of an association affiliated with the JDP who were allegedly secretly handing out food supplies exclusively to their supporters in Er-Rich.

The solidarity actions by civil society associations affiliated with the JDP took place without coordination with local authorities and in disregard of official instructions regarding the lists of people needing aid.

The alleged discriminatory practices of the JDP and its non-compliance with authorities’ instructions regarding the distribution of in-kind and financial aid to vulnerable groups were roundly criticised.

“The Justice and Development Party is trying, through these practices, to employ the pandemic for electoral purposes,” said political science Professor Rashid Lazrag.

Other political parties accused the proselytising organisation affiliated with the JDP exploiting a national solidarity process for political purposes, an accusation JDP denied.

The JDP, in a statement, said it considered criticism against its cadres as “nothing more than a systematic targeting campaign.” It denied it exploited the pandemic for political purposes.

Lazrag, however, said: “The JDP’s denial comes within the framework of the usual ‘being the victim of a witch hunt’ response that the party resorts to whenever it finds itself in an uncomfortable position.”