Morocco’s Left Rejects Alliance with Islamists

Activists of the center-left Labour Party take part in a rally during the electoral campaign for the legislative elections in Rabat on 20 November 2011. (Photo: AFP - Abdel-Hak Senna)

By: Imad Estito

Published Friday, December 9, 2011

Morocco’s largest left-wing party, which has been in consecutive governments for the past 13 years, surprised many when it decided to become part of the opposition.

Nobody expected the most powerful leftist party in Morocco, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), to return to the ranks of the opposition after spending 13 years in government.

They have surprised their allies in the Democratic Bloc by refusing to participate in a government run by Islamists. This decision is without a doubt a defining moment for a party that has spent most of its days in power rather than agitating for revolution.

The USFP has justified its decision – which the whole leadership supported – with the need to respect the will of Moroccan voters. These voters, the party points out, have clearly chosen the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) to govern.

USFP head, Abdelwahed Radi, made the announcement after the party’s poor showing in the recent legislative elections.

“There are numerous social projects for the future that we must clarify, and it is in the best interest of the country for us to avoid ambiguity. Our party has values and principles that it cannot give up. We can afford to lose ministries in the government or seats in parliament or anywhere else; however, we cannot lose our identity,” Radi declared.

Moroccan political journalist Sami Moudni says that the USFP’s decision to switch to the opposition could pave the way for a reconciliation with its working-class base and its middle-class elite.

But while some may expect this to be easy, for Moudni “a transition to opposition does not simply mean returning to the side of the masses. This requires a political and organizational effort, intellectual production, and a restructuring of the party.”

The USFP’s decision has particularly surprised the party’s allies in the Democratic Bloc (comprised of the Independence Party and the Party of Progress and Socialism), raising questions surrounding the future of this alliance.

The USFP’s two partners are currently leaning towards accepting a place in the Islamist led government after having criticized the USFP for not consulting them before taking such a decision.

Most of those who spoke to al-Akhbar said that the fate of the Democratic Bloc may be to put it on hold temporarily. They denied the Bloc may be broken up, particularly because the relationship between its constituents was characterized by ambiguity and lacked coordination to begin with.

In turn, USFP National Office member Mounir Bensalah said that he believes “the time is right to return the flower to its soil before it wilts forever.”

He also added that “Morocco needs the left in so far as it is a progressive social project for realizing democracy and social justice, and the USFP is still able to form a leftist pole around which revolve all of the leftist and progressive forces.”

He notes that “participating in any government would mean the end of our representing progressive change and would show that we are only after positions.”

However, Omar Balafrej, the independent socialist politician, sees no positive role for the USFP in the future of Morocco. “The best they could do is ally with what remains of the Group of Eight alliance and form one large liberal party,”he said.

Moudni prefers that there be coordination between the USFP and the other parties that have ended up in the opposition from the original Group of Eight – the National Rally of Independents and the Authenticity and Modernity Party – only as long as they have courted the USFP. He says that the USFP “will offer them the cover of historical legitimacy and political clout.”

The USFP’s choice to join the opposition forced the head of the PJD, Abdellah Benkirane, to reconsider his choices and look for other parties that might join the government coalition.

While the conservative Independence Party had previously agreed to participate in the government and begin internal consultations, the Party for Progress and Socialism is hesitating after its allies in the USFP went over to the other side.

Benkirane has also knocked on the door of the right-wing Popular Movement Party, which was a part of the Group of Eight before it backed out after elections. Most likely, the government will be comprised of four political tendencies: Islamists, nationalists, conservatives, and socialists.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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