The PJD also has avoided focusing on issues such as the sale of alcohol or women’s headscarves that have obsessed Islamist parties elsewhere in the region, and instead has talked about the need to revamp Morocco‘s abysmal education system, root out rampant corruption and find jobs for the millions of unemployed.
“What they lacked before was the confidence of the public, and now they have been able to go beyond their traditional constituency and give assurances to the business and middle class that they weren’t totally Islamist,” he said.
Part of the new success of Islamist parties across the region is due to the Turkish model. An Islamist party has been in power in Turkey for almost a decade now and has shown that “modernity and Islam can be allied effectively,” Mr. Tozy said.
In Morocco, the PJD is widely acknowledged as being the best organized in the country, relying on grass-roots networks to promote candidates rather than just enlisting prominent local figures to attract votes.
It also benefited from the push for change in the country and the discrediting of the parties closely associated with the status quo. In particular, the Party of Authenticity and Modernity, which was formed by a friend of the king’s and was the largest in the outgoing parliament, lost seats in the new elections.
The PJD has had an ambivalent relationship with the activists of the pro-democracy movement. Several high-ranking party officials joined the street demonstrations and expressed their solidarity, while Mr. Benkirane himself warned against the protests — possibly to stay in the palace’s good graces.
It would not be the first time that Morocco‘s kings have looked to the opposition for help. In the final years of his reign, the current king’s father, Hassan II, brought the leftist Union of Progressive Socialist Forces into the government for the first time, even letting its leader serve as prime minister.
Little changed, and the party lost much of its cachet in society and has since plummeted in the polls.
“The palace can’t keep playing the game of emptying the parties of their substance, marginalizing them with the citizens, giving them the semblance of power, but not real power so they lose credibility,” he said.
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