Former Morocco PM Abdelilah Benkirane back to the leadership of Islamist PJD party

Former Morocco PM Abdelilah Benkirane back to the leadership of Islamist PJD party
Benkirane, a former PM and charismatic figure in Morocco's political landscape, was called back to the leadership of the Islamist PJD following the party's stark defeat in the latest general election.
2 min read
01 November, 2021
Abdelilah Benkirane attends a session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in 2013 [AFP/Getty]

Former Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane was elected as leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), during an extraordinary congress of the party held on Saturday.

Benkirane succeeded Saad Dine El Otmani as secretary-general of the party after winning 89 percent of the votes against six other candidates, among them senior party figures.

A popular and long-standing figure of Moroccan politics, Benkirane served as prime minister from November 2011 to April 2017.

He had previously headed the party twice between 2008 and 2017 but left in March over deep disagreements with the then PJD-led government.

Points of contention included the normalisation of relations with Israel and a motion to legalise therapeutic cannabis.

The election of a new secretary-general for the PJD follows the party's heavy defeat in the September general elections, when the moderate Islamist party won only 12 parliamentary seats, down from its record high of 125 seats in 2016.

The party’s leadership collectively resigned following the blow and called for Saturday's extraordinary national congress.

The Islamist PJD rose to power in Morocco in November 2011, after the Arab Spring uprising prompted King Mohammad VI to adopt a new constitution reducing some of his near-absolute powers.

From 2011 to 2016, the PJD headed a reformist coalition that included communists, liberals, and conservatives. The party then earned a massive victory in the 2016 general election, winning 125 seats out of 395.

Nonetheless, during its time in power, the PJD faced a store of scandals over rising unemployment and a perceived failure to deal with rampant corruption.