Thursday, 12 July 2012

Morocco: Istiqlal's problems of choosing a new leader

The major opposition Istiqlal party held its 16 th congress from 29 June to 1 July. At the top of the agenda was the process of choosing a new leader to succeed former prime minister Abbas El Fassi. The party traditionally chooses a leader by acclamation based on consensus.

This time elections seemed to be necessary because two contrasting candidates have come forward:

  • Abdelouahed El Fassi , Abbas El Fassi's son; and
  • Hamid Chabat, populist mayor of Fès as well as the secretary general of the Union générale des travailleurs marocains (UGTM). Chabat, who has his supporters, says he will step down from his union post if he is elected as party leader. Unfortunately, two of his sons are currently in jail (one for drugs-related offences) and Chabat himself is currently facing legal action.

Observers say that a consensus candidate may be chosen from among the party's leading figures. Possible candidates include former transport minister Karim Ghellab; former housing and urban development minister Taoufik Hejra; and Saâd Alami. Another popular alternative candidate to Chabat, Abdelkader El Kyhel, (aged 40), is too young to stand.

Abbas El Fassi stated to the press that “the party wants neither revolutionaries in its ranks nor candidates for the secretary general's post who have court cases pending”. At the close of the congress, there was no consensus candidate and elections had not been held.

The question of Istiqlal's leadership is now on hold until an executive committee meeting in September. The Palace has expressed no preference for any particular candidate. Chabat declared after the congress that he had no intention of withdrawing his candidature for the leadership.

For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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