Moroccan king says he does not ‘belong to any political party’

Sunday 07/08/2016
King: Only party I am proud to belong to is Morocco

CASABLANCA - Moroccan King Mo­hammed VI said he does not belong to any political party after reports from a royal palace source depicted the monarch’s discontent with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane as debate between the country’s two major parties heated up two months ahead of parliamentary elections.
“As the guarantor of respect for the constitution, the smooth run­ning of institutions and the safe­guard of the democratic choice, I do not take part in polls, nor do I belong to any political party. I am the king of all Moroccans, candi­dates and voters and also of those who do not vote,” the king said during a July 30th speech marking his 17th anniversary of assuming the throne.
“Furthermore, I am the king of all political organisations, without any discrimination or exception. As I said previously: The only party I am proud to belong to is Morocco.”
The French-language weekly Jeune Afrique reported that a source from the royal entourage said Benkirane acted as “an oppo­nent” during meetings of his Jus­tice and Development Party (PJD) but in other circumstances swore absolute loyalty to the monarch.
Benkirane’s recent references to “the two governments” — the one he leads and the other based in the palace — and his calls for the dis­solution of the opposition Authen­ticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which was founded by the king’s adviser and close friend Fouad Ali El Himma, have angered the mon­arch, according to the source.
“My bags are packed and I am ready to quit the government at any time,” said Benkirane, add­ing that he would remain faithful to the king “even if he throws me in jail”, a declaration considered “particularly irresponsible” by the royal entourage.
“Lately, the king’s name has been used in speeches of political lead­ers of both the majority and oppo­sition, trying to win the sympathy of voters. So an end to this game had to be put,” said political analyst Mohammed Afry.
King Mohammed VI stressed all actors, candidates and parties should avoid involving him in elec­toral or party disputes.
“The king was clear in his speech to the elected, political parties and their leaders, the voters and Mo­roccans that no one can undermine the democratic path established by Morocco during this new era,” said Afry, a journalist at the independ­ent daily Annahar Al Maghribia.
During a televised interview, PAM Secretary-General Ilyas Omari mentioned the absence of his archrival Benkirane at the MedCop forum in Tangier despite being offi­cially invited to the climate confer­ence.
However, the leader of the Is­lamist party stated that it was not a government boycott as the event was attended by several members of the cabinet. Benkirane missed the conference in order to attend the funeral of the son of a senior member of the Independence Party in Meknes.
PAM considers the PJD an Islam­ist party that exploits religion. PJD views PAM as an elitist party close to the palace.
Afry said social media have be­come influential political platforms in Morocco. “The use of this tech­nology in election campaigns is clear and the interaction is greatly developing,” he said.
However, Afry stressed that man­ifestos, which include proposed re­forms and projects, rather than the virtual world have the most influ­ence on the parties’ campaigns.
The PJD-led government has carried out major reforms, such as overhauling the compensation and pension funds despite fierce oppo­sition from trade unions.
“The recent reforms will, of course, have an impact in the up­coming elections as the opposition will use them to its favour despite the fact that Morocco was forced to carry out these reforms due to international pressure,” said Afry in reference to the World Bank. “These late reforms could also favour the majority-led govern­ment.”