Delivery is key for Morocco’s new government

Menas Associates, London, 28 October 2021

Morocco’s new government, announced by King Mohamed VI on 7 October, has taken the reins of power. As Morocco Focus anticipated last month, the formation process was swift and smooth, with the three front runners in the elections — the Rassemblement National des Indépendants (RNI), the Parti authenticité et modernité (PAM) and Istiqlal — joining forces to form an alliance.

The 24-member cabinet, led by RNI leader Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, is a pro-business and mainly technocratic government. The portfolios have been divided between the three parties with: the RNI also taking seven ministries and minister delegate posts; while the PAM has seven; but and Istiqlal only four.

Of the so-called ‘administrative’ or ‘sovereign’ posts in the outgoing government — which are effectively appointees made by the Palace and which have no political party affiliation — Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit, and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita retained their positions. This is unsurprising and means that the Kingdom will follow a similar trajectory in its foreign policy and in its domestic security policies.

Many of the other political party appointees are relatively unknown and are experts and technocrats rather than political figures. It is even being said that three of its own ministers are not even known to Istiqlal.

This technocratic emphasis is, however, deliberate with Akhannouch keen to give the impression that, unlike the Parti de la justice et du développement (PJD) led governments, his will be a government of competence, hard work and results. He is also determined on stressing its cohesive character. Saadeddine Othmani’s previous government was full of friction and contradiction — with ministers from each of its political parties pulling in different directions — but Akhannouch is keen to show that the new one will be harmonious.

All three constituent parties are broadly in tune with each other and, more importantly perhaps, are also in tune with the monarchy. Consequently, it has a degree of stability that has not been known for a long time in Moroccan politics. It should also be able to pass laws quickly and without much trouble. The alliance not only has a large parliamentary majority but the heads of the two chambers are from among its ranks.

Therefore, while there are genuine anxieties about the weakness of the opposition, there is a sense of optimism and desire among many Moroccans that a line has been drawn under the chaotic and disappointing period of Islamist-led rule. There is also real hope that a new, more efficient government is now in place.

An implementing body

However, this does not mean that there are not serious concerns. The government’s closeness to the Palace means that it may become more of a technical implementing body, thereby weakening democracy and that there will be no challenge to the status quo.

The government’s main aim will certainly be to implement the King’s development project which is based upon a vision that has been formulated and prepared outside the government. It therefore very much looks as though political action is likely to be downsized in favour of implementing reforms and opening the country up for business. It has been noted that this is the first government in a long time that does not have a human rights minister.

This may please some Moroccans but may make building trust in the political elite difficult. The political class has been criticised for being aloof, self-interested, and of being in touch with the people. A government of technocrats is unlikely to change that view. Furthermore, Aziz Akhannouch, who is a billionaire, is no stranger to controversy and criticism. His name was raised during the protests of 2011 as one of the country’s ‘fat cats’ so his government may struggle to reach out and strike the right note with the electorate.

Delivery is key

The bottom line, however, will be whether this government can deliver. Its greatest challenge will be in trying to meet the needs and expectations of the people. Its political parties, and the RNI in particular, significantly raised hopes during the election campaign with their rafts of promises across various sectors (Morocco Focus, September 2021). Many Moroccans will therefore be holding them to their election slogan of ‘You deserve better.’

Fulfilling these promises will be no small order, and the shine will soon wear off before too long if they fail to do so. However, there is a sense that Morocco has undergone a reset and that the RNI-led government may be the best placed to at least try to bring about reforms and address the many socio-economic grievances that are blighting the Kingdom.