Morocco's ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) held on Saturday its 8th national congress to elect a new leader, after its former leader Abdelilah Benkirane bid the party farewell, confirming that the party is determined to proceed with the reforms despite the party's difficult situation.
Speaking at the inaugural session at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Benkirane indicated that national congress comes this year following several issues the party suffered from and after its success in the 2016 elections.
He stated that PJD managed to win the elections and defeat its opponents, hinting at its political rival Authenticity and Modernity opposition party.
King Mohammed VI chose Saadeddine Othmani as Prime Minister, which Benkirane described as a "huge blow" to the party.
"The party was supposed to take a very difficult stance and become part of the opposition, however, we eventually decided to react positively to the statement of the Royal Court," stated Benkirane
“I know that a lot of brothers and sisters in the party treasure me, if not all,” he said. “But I am also human, anything could happen to me. In all cases, even if I were a good man, eventually I would have to leave the party," he added in his farewell speech.
Benkirane had previously condemned PJD members who did not support him in his re-election for a third term.
“It is because of me that the party made political and electoral progress,” he said, adding that: “despite the tense and difficult conflict the party witnessed, we made the decision based on our internal laws and democracy, despite the fact that they suffer from shortcomings.”
“Perhaps, we made a mistake. We could have discussed the issue within the congress, but it’s too late for that now. You will have to choose a new secretary general. I ask you to listen to all candidates and make the right decision. May God be with you,” he concluded.
The leader of PJD is supposed to be announced on Sunday, following Benkirane's two mandates, which started in 2008, where he led the party to three major wins in Morocco's local and parliamentary elections, in 2011, 2015 and 2016. He also led the government from 2011 to 2017.
However, after failing to form a government following five months of post-election deadlock, King Mohammed VI decided to replace PM Benkirane with Othmani, which created a huge political turmoil within the party.
The king took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said.
The king thanked Benkirane for his service as prime minister, praising him for his “effectiveness, competence and self-sacrifice”.
Observers expect Othmani to rule the party following Benkirane, in order to avoid any conflicts between the positions of party's secretary general with the presidency of the cabinet.