Moroccoʹs PJD on course to self-destruct

By drowning the PJD in procedures and decisions, Moroccoʹs ruling elite is using the same approach it applied to cripple another former coalition partner, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces. Does this gradual assimilation of the PJD into the establishment signal the end of the Islamistsʹ participation in the democratic process? By Mohamed Taifouri

The Justice and Development Party (PJD), on which many Moroccans have pinned their hopes, is aiming to see out the failed democratic transition venture with the coalition government in its new guise as a regular player on the political and party scene. This, after it willingly and obediently signed up to its own destruction. Saad Eddine El-Othmaniʹs Muslim Brotherhood have seemingly embarked upon a race against time, with the aim of achieving full assimilation with the Makhzen or "shadow government" (of royal advisers and courtiers) as the Moroccans call it, before 2021, the date of the next legislative elections.

The Islamists have accepted, willingly or otherwise, the implementation of various controversial political decisions, of which no mention was made in their electoral manifesto. Moreover, many politicians who previously held positions of power avoided even mentioning such policies in public, fearing that they would be held responsible for them.

The latest of these decisions has been imposed by the Ministry of Finance and it involves tough tax measures relating to the electronic billing system; it pertains to the requirement for Unified Tax Identification Numbers (TINs) to cover commercial transactions. It also applies to procedures associated with customs control and booking rules. This decision led traders, shop and cafe owners to organise a general strike, the first of its kind, which paralysed activity in the major commercial centres of Morocco such as Agadir, Casablanca and Rabat.

Lack of vision

The government justified the measure as being part of a package of reforms to combat tax evasion and impose stricter regulations on business sector. Traders and business people interpreted it, however, as an attempt to target the most vulnerable elements in the trade cycle, i.e. those without financial guarantees or social protection.

Former prime minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane (photo: DW)
The current administration lacks the communication skills of former PJD prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane, who used simple language that large sections of society could understand and respond to. Some of his decisions may have been more radical and influential, but at least they were accompanied by an ongoing dialogue with the Moroccan people. After all, writes Taifouri, language is central to the defining struggle between authoritarianism and the will of the people

Aside from the various party lines regarding these measures, not to mention the implicit settling of political scores as some seek to exploit the situation for their own interests, the governmentʹs handling of the commercial sector reveals the lack of a proactive vision and a lack of partnership and co-ordination with the other parties.

Instead, the government makes do with the logic of last-minute crisis management, as might a fire-fighter. This does nothing to limit the damage, however, and only serves to shake public confidence in government institutions still further.

More on this topic