Morocco reshuffle halves number of ministers but key posts unchanged

The presence of a significant number of technocrats in the new cabinet may intensify competition among its members.
Saturday 12/10/2019
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (C) and Morocco Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, to his right, pose with the new Moroccan cabinet, October 9. (AP)
The right changes? Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (C) and Morocco Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, to his right, pose with the new Moroccan cabinet, October 9. (AP)

CASABLANCA - Morocco has almost halved the number of its ministers in a government reshuffle but key ministries remained unchanged.

The number of ministers and junior ministers was reduced from 41 to 23 in the second government reshuffle in less than two years. Several new ministers are without clear party affiliation.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI approved the list of new ministers submitted by Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani after calling for a government reshuffle with “high-level national elites chosen on merit and competence” during a speech in July.

The tourism, housing, youth and culture, employment, justice and health ministers were changed but the interior, religious affairs, agriculture, energy, trade and industry and education ministers kept their posts in shifts announced October 9.

The ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has seven posts in the new cabinet, while the National Rally of Independents party (RNI) led by business tycoon and Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch, will handle four and the Popular Movement party two.

Mohamed Benabdelkader, former deputy minister for the reform of the administration and civil service from the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party, was given the portfolio of justice amid expected reform of the penal code in the next parliamentary session.

The Constitutional Union party also got one portfolio with Hassan Abyaba as minister of culture, youth and sports and government spokesman.

The Party of Progress and Socialism withdrew from the coalition over what it described as political disagreements, calling its participation in several governments since 1998 “non-homogeneous.”

Analysts said the fact that the PJD and RNI kept the key ministries while the other three parties saw their portfolios reduced may backfire on their leaders and spark internal conflicts.

Political analyst Hafid Ezzahri said the presence of a significant number of technocrats in the new cabinet may intensify competition among its members.

“It is noticeable in this government lineup that the parties still have not been able to overcome this stereotypical view, which is their inability to evoke high competences in line with the king’s call,” said Ezzahri.

Four women are part of the new cabinet, compared with just one previously. Among them is Nadia Fettah Alaoui, minister of tourism, handicrafts, air transport and social economy.

Alaoui, from RNI, has been deputy CEO of Saham Finances since 2017 and chairman of the board of directors of Saham Assurance Maroc. She was named CEO of Sanlam Panafrica General Insurance, which covers the perimeter of the former Saham Finances.

The second government reshuffle under Othmani’s tenure as prime minister came less than two years before legislative elections, which gives the new ministers little room to carry out reforms.

“We are a year-and-a-half away from the legislative elections. How can it be reasonable that ministers are replaced by others who will not even contribute to the last finance bill in the current government mandate?” political analyst Khalid El Bekkari told Hespress.

King Mohammed VI called for a new development model to tackle social inequalities and poverty in the North African country. He acknowledged that infrastructure and institutional reforms were not enough, despite their importance.

Morocco has largely been insulated from the turmoil that hit North Africa and the Middle East since the “Arab spring” uprisings of 2011 despite some protests over economic and social problems.

The king ceded some powers to an elected government after the 2011 constitutional reform, which saw Islamists rise to power for the first time.

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