The rise of Morocco’s PJD party

Morocco’s King Mohammed on Tuesday appointed Abdelilah Benkirane as the new prime minister after his moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the most seats in a parliamentary election last week.

Following are key events that have led to its resounding success in the election:

* The party’s founder is the late Abdelkarim al-Khatib, a prominent figure in the nationalist movement for independence from the French protectorate, who was also the physician of King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current king.

* After independence in 1956, Khatib joined pro-palace figures to create the Popular Movement party to counter the nationalist Istiqlal Party (Independence Party) in the aftermath of unrest and assassinations of prominent figures in the resistance movement.

* Khatib breaks ranks with the Popular Movement to protest the imposition by King Hassan of a state of emergency and creates the Democratic and Constitutional Popular Movement party (MPDC). The new party advocated the adoption of Sunni Islamic teachings and pushed for lifting the state of emergency by holding fair elections.

* A prominent figure in the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) party – then the main opposition to the monarchy – is stabbed to death in 1975 by two members of Shabiba al-Islamiya (Islamist Youth), a clandestine organisation that was suspected of being manipulated by the security apparatus.

* Leading figures in Shabiba al-Islamiya, including Abdelilah Benkirane, set up in 1982 the secret Jamaa al-Islamiya (The Islamist Group). The group becomes legal in 1992 and changes its name to Al-Islah wa Tajdid (Reform and Renewal). It changed its name to Attawhid wal Islah (Monotheism and Reform) in 1996.

* A frail King Hassan offers a constitutional reform in 1996 that would allow opposition parties mostly from the left to join the government.

* Khatib allows members of Attawhid wal Islah (Monotheism and Reform), including Benkirane, to join his MPDC party as it gears up for parliamentary election in 1997 that were later won by USFP. The move was widely-seen as a bid by the monarchy’s security apparatus to weaken Al-Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality), an Islamist group banned from politics because of its hostile rhetoric towards the monarchy.

* Benkirane was among nine MPDC members to win seats in parliament in 1997 election.

* In 1998, MPDC changes its name to Justice and Development Party (PJD).

* PJD more than quadruples to 42 the number of seats it holds in parliament after coming third in parliamentary election in 2002 but chooses to remain in the opposition.

* Authorities coerce PJD to limit the number of its candidates in local elections in 2003 under a vast security crackdown in the aftermath of suicide attacks that killed 45 people in Casablanca on May, 16, 2003.

* PJD names psychiatrist Saad-Eddine el-Othmani Secretary General to replace an ailing Khatib.

* PJD comes second in 2007 parliamentary polls with 46 seats.

* The party’s founder Khatib dies in September, 2008. He was 87.

* Benkirane narrowly wins the top post in the party in 2008.

* On March 9, King Mohammed responds to protests inspired by Arab Spring uprisings by proposing to trim his powers. PJD succeeds in pressuring royal advisers to remove freedom of religion from an early draft of the new constitution of 2011.

( / 29.11.2011)

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