Two new Islamist parties challenge the PJD in Morocco
By Mawassi Lahcen for Magharebia in Casablanca – 02/09/2007
The Party for Justice and Development (PJD) is not the only Islamist party to participate in Morocco's legislative elections. This year sees candidates from the Renaissance and Virtue Party (PRV), a breakaway movement from the PJD, and the Civilized Alternative Party, which only recently acquired the license necessary to engage publicly in political affairs.
The PRV has become a strong competitor to the PJD in certain constituencies, having attracted fundamentalist notables like propagandist Abdul-Bari az-Zamzami, who was nominated for the Casablanca-Anfa constituency, along with several former parliamentarians from the PJD. The PRV has benefited from discontent with PJD candidates in some areas, who have been elected without contest.
The PRV has fielded candidates in 60 of Morocco's 95 electoral constituencies, in addition to nominating a national women's list. According to PRV Secretary-General Muhammad Khaleidi, "We had been set on putting forward candidates in every constituency, but we preferred to confine ourselves to those constituencies in which we have a chance of success, and to focus our resources and capabilities there."
Khaleidi said his party is capable of forming a parliamentary group in the next government. According to the Assembly's internal rules achieving that status, requires no fewer than 20 elected members.
Abdul-Bari az-Zamzami is considered one of the most prominent clerics in Casablanca. He served as Friday imam and khatib at the Waled al-Hamra mosque in Casablanca from 1976 until his detention by Moroccan authorities in 2001. Az-Zamzami supported the PJD in the 2002 elections, and many credit him with the PJD winning two seats in the Anfa constituency.
He is expected to receive the support of Anfa's voters, especially since the PJD have not put forth their own candidate in that district. The PJD created resentment in the area by choosing instead to back their ally, Citizens’ Forces Party leader Abderrahim Al Hajouji.
The Civilized Alternative Party has put forward candidates in just 37 constituencies. Party leader Mustapha al-Muatassim told Magharebia, "We lined up candidates for 51 constituencies, but we were inexperienced and made some mistakes in preparing the candidates' dossiers, and this caused the Interior Ministry to invalidate the lists we had presented for 14 constituencies. On top of this, our national women’s list was not accepted as we were late in submitting it. This has greatly diminished our chances, in addition to the weakness of our resources in comparison to the rest of the parties taking part."
PJD Secretary-General Saad al-Din al-Othmani told Magharebia the election results will confirm that PRV's breaking away has not impacted his party's chances gain parliamentary representation. Al-Othmani intends for his party to win one million votes and 70 seats in Parliament.
Nasr al-Sharaibi, President of the Modernity and Democracy Association also played down the effect of the PRV's breakaway from the PJD. "I do not believe it will have much of an effect because the split happened at a late stage," he told Magharebia. Al-Sharaibi said because of its tight organisation and considerable resources, the PJD has little to fear in the elections. He said there are very few parties which can expect to obtain 20% of the seats in the coming elections.
Mailoud Belqadi, a political science professor and researcher in Rabat told Magharebia that despite competition from two new parties the PJD will be a constant in the political equation in Morocco. "The approved format of the ballot, the expected participation percentage and the large number of parties taking part make it difficult for any party to obtain 50 of the 325 seats," he said. I can say, however, that the PJD is capable of achieving this."
Nonetheless, Belqadi said it is unlikely the Islamists will sweep the elections."The government will be formed from a coalition of parties," he said. "As for the participating Islamist parties, I don’t believe their share will be more than 60 seats in total, and this will not give them the majority necessary to form the government. Therefore I think that if the three Islamist parties are able to make it to parliament, they will remain in the opposition."
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