In last Friday’s legislative elections in Morocco, the ruling Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD, left) again secured a plurality, but while the elections were hailed as proof of progress, they largely reinforced regime authority, notes Mohamed Daadaoui, an associate professor of political science at Oklahoma City University:
The absence of a majority winner and the continuing ideological fragmentation of the political system furthers the institutional imbalance of power between the palace and the government. The limitations on political actors in Morocco may have actually created more space for the Islamist party. Rival parties have struggled to separate themselves from popular complaints with the regime. Even after years in government, many Moroccans see the PJD as transparent and incorruptible, a perception that the party has used to its advantage.
The PJD electoral success illustrates the rise of a new breed of Islamism, which is almost pragmatically secular and less ideologically tied to the core ethos of Islamism, Daadaoui writes for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog:
For the PJD, like Ennahda in Tunisia, Islam is not din wa dawla (religion and state) anymore. This Islamism is a strategy of political action that seeks to separate its political from its da’wist (preaching) religious movement. Decades of political learning within Morocco’s circumscribed political space created this adaptation. The PJD has realized that a rigid Islamist ideology would not be conducive to its own existence and would entail, as Benkirane told me during my field work, “rejection and confrontation yielding no results.”
Many Moroccans living abroad are calling on the authorities to engage with the diaspora and translate Morocco’s constitutional commitments into laws and public policies that guarantee the right for civic and political participation, writes Hanane Zelouani Idrissi, a program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO.
The challenge for the PJD will be to sustain its dual role of working within the system, while seeking to address its main challenges like corruption. Ultimately, the Islamist party’s strategy of playing “games in multiple arenas” depends on regime tolerance and the enduring appeal of its narrative of authenticity among the plurality of the electorate in Morocco.