May. 1, 2022
Morocco finds itself oN the cusp of change that promises to take the entire population along for the ride. The results of the September 8, 2021, elections for the 395 seat House of Representatives were described by the victor, the leader of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) party, as a “victory of all Moroccans.” This phrase is nothing, if not the leitmotif of the new economic model, set to determine Morocco’s trajectory for this century.
How they Voted
RNI won the highest number of seats in the lower house of parliament, at 97. In stark contrast, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), the power behind the government since 2011, garnered just 12 seats, in a more than 90% collapse from the 125 seats won back in 2016. It is now relegated to the opposition. Saadeddine Othmani, the outgoing prime minister and foreign minister from 2012-2013, was unable to retain his constituency of Rabat. The turnout at the polls, which surged from 43% in 2016 to 50.35%, marked a peak since the 2002 elections. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) has 34 seats, followed by the Popular Movement (MP) with 28, the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) with 22, the Constitutional Union (UC) with 18, the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS) with five, the Front of Democratic Forces (FFD) with three, and the Alliance of the Left Federation (FGD) with one seat. Meanwhile, two new voices are set to echo through the chamber: the Front of Democratic Forces (FFD) with three deputies and the Unified Socialist Party (PSU) with one.
Meet the New Team
Morocco’s 2011 Constitution that came into being in the wake of widespread protests during the Arab Spring transferred much authority from the monarchy to elected governments and the bicameral parliament. That said, ultimate say over strategic national policy remains with His Majesty King Mohamed VI, whose rule is now in its 21st year. On October 7, the King revealed the new government led by Aziz Akhannouch, an industrialist and the majority owner of Akwa Group that has interests in petroleum, gas, and chemicals. His party is also known to be close to the royal ear and has featured in virtually all coalition governments for over two decades. The most probable coalition parties for RNI were rightly assumed to be the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), second in the polls with 82 seats, followed by the Istiqlal (Independence) Party on 78 seats.
A Technical Advantage
PM Akhannouch labeled his cabinet focused on “actions and results” and “full of skills to meet the aspirations of citizens through the implementation of the royal project of the new development model.” At this vital juncture for the national economy, given Morocco’s new economic model, the 24-member cabinet is intentionally a technocratic one. The new administration features ministers who had been instrumental in the new development model commission, such as Commission Head Chakib Benmousa, now National Education Minister, and Abdellatif Miraoui, the new Higher Education Minister. Seasoned diplomat Nasser Bourita, an independent, remains Foreign Minister, while fellow independent Abdelouafi Laftit is the Minister of the Interior.
Strong Female Representation
The new 24-member cabinet features seven female ministers, compared to four in the last administration. Nadia Fettah Alaoui, a financial world veteran and the former tourism minister, is tasked with the office of economy and finance. She was named CEO of the Year in 2018 by the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan. Lawyer and two-term Mayor of Marrakech Fatima Ezzahra Mansouri is the new Housing Minister. Aaouatif Hayar, President of Hassan II University and an authority on smart cities, is the Solidarity and Family Minister, while marketing specialist Fatima Zahra Ammor heads the all-important Tourism Ministry. Ghita Mezzour was appointed Minister Delegate responsible for Morocco’s digital transition, and Leila Benali is the new Minister Delegate tasked with energy transition.
The new government has grabbed the bull by the horns by pledging to create 1 million jobs in order to pull the economy out of its COVID-19 slump. Meanwhile, a raft of social policies will focus on extending health insurance to all citizens, as well as increasing teachers’ salaries and the assurance of old age pensions.
The tide has clearly turned in Moroccan politics, with an electorate perhaps now keener on a government of proven technical ability, rather than ideological credentials.