Abdelilah Benkirane returns to Justice and Development Party

The former Moroccan president has been elected secretary general of the Islamist political party


The dismal performance of the Justice and Development Party in Morocco's recent elections has demonstrated the general discontent of Alawi society with the Islamists. This defeat has also led to a new change in the structure and direction of the political formation. The PJD won only 12 seats in the September elections, down from 125 in 2016. This party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, gained influence thanks to the Arab Spring, although over time it has lost its relevance.

With the aim of repositioning itself as one of Morocco's main parties, the PDJ has held an extraordinary congress to elect a new leader capable of dealing with the electoral debacle and internal divisions. The candidate selected for the post is the former head of the Moroccan government and ex-leader of the party, Adbelilah Benkiran. Benkiran left the Islamist party in March due to "deep disagreements" with the government, led by his own party. The former president is a charismatic politician who is highly respected among Morocco's Islamist sector, although the opposition has labelled him a "populist".


Benkirane returns to the political stage five years after being removed as president by King Mohammed VI. The monarch replaced him with Saad Eddine El Othmani. In this regard, it is worth noting that Benkirane demanded El Othmani's resignation after the electoral defeat despite not holding any position within the party, which demonstrates his authority and relevance within the Islamist party.

Among the contenders to lead the JDP were Abdelaziz Al-Ammari and Abdullah Bouanou, but in the end, with 1112 votes out of 1252, Benkirane was the overall winner. The popular Islamist leader won 81 per cent of the party members' votes.


"We are at a time that requires sacrifices. We must build the party anew and give it a new spirit starting from the Islamic reference", Benkirane declared after his election in a video conference. "I am your brother and one of you," he said. "The party must seek a new approach, which is a positive and beneficial element for our state and our society," the new secretary general also added. Benkirane was previously elected secretary general in 2008, while from 2012 to 2017 he served as Moroccan prime minister.elecciones marruecos

Benkirane faces several challenges as leader of the PJD. First, he will have to deal with the divisions within the party, which have been accentuated by the normalisation of relations with Israel and the legalisation of cannabis.

He will also have to position the party as a key opposition party to the current coalition government between the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), and Istiqlal. Benkiran will aim to become a key figure in the opposition to the current chief executive, Aziz Akhannouch, who won 102 seats in the last elections.