Morocco: the Islamist party PJD has a new leader
In the leadership contest at the end of the congress, Mr Benkirane received 684 votes, comfortably beating his nearest competitor, the outgoing secretary-general, Saad Eddine Othmani (495 votes), who had been expected to win. Mr Benkirane, who was the president of the PJD’s National Council, the party’s policy-making arm, is generally perceived as a pragmatic and consensus-making moderate, in particular in his relations with the monarchy. He has gained increasing popularity within the party, whereas Mr Othmani had been criticised for being vague and indecisive during his leadership. His standing had been affected by the relatively poor showing of the PJD in the September election—the party had set itself the target of winning up to 90 seats, but its eventual tally was only 46, leaving it in second place behind the conservative nationalist Istiqlal, which won 52 out of the total 325 seats.
The PJD was not included in the coalition government formed after the election. According to Mr Benkirane, the party had previously been offered the chance of joining the government in 1998 and 2002—offers which he said he had been inclined to accept. However, the PJD was obliged to adopt a lower profile after the 2003 terrorist bomb attacks in Casablanca, which was followed by a clampdown on Islamists of all stripes. The PJD now seems to be advancing on the road to rehabilitation. Mr Benkirane’s first big test will be the municipal elections in 2009, in which the PJD will be looking to wrest control of some of Morocco’s major cities, possibly in alliance with the Unions socialiste des forces populaires (USFP), a formerly dominant left-leaning party that was the biggest loser in the 2007 general election. Mr Himma is also courting the USFP as a potential ally for his party in the municipal polls.
Further ahead, the big prize for Mr Benkirane and the PJD would be victory in the next general election, which is scheduled to take place in 2012. Mr Benkirane has stated that, in the event of an election win, the PJD would have no objection to serving under a technocrat prime minister.
The new Secretary has changed so much his relations with the monarchy that the King Mohammed VI has phoned him to congratulate him after his victory.
The Islamist PJD wants to ally with the Socialist Union of Popular Forces to win some mayor cities and is not objected to serve (that is, to be in Government) under a technocrat (that is, someone who knows how to manage the Government but with no ideology, something which would be propvided by PJD, I guess). Why I am not the least surprised?