PAM (Morocco) (Authenticity and Modernity)
In this article, we will discuss the origins and politics of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) in Morocco. We will examine the political positions of PAM (Morocco), and any ties between the PAM and King Mohammed VI in Morocco. We shall also discuss how Authenticity and Modernity has done in elections, and the relationship between PAM (Morocco) and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco.
History of the PAM (Morocco)
In 2008, a number of secular democrats in Morocco formed an entity called the Movement of All Democrats. This was an umbrella for several different democratic parties and organizations within the country. Then, shortly after, in late 2008, the Authenticity and Modernity Party in Morocco was first formed. The founder of the PAM (Morocco) was MP Fouad Ali El Himma (Liddell, 2008). As Boussaid (2009) notes, El Himma “became president of the important foreign affairs parliamentary committee and was able to get 36 MPs as part of his Modernity and Authenticity bloc in parliament. Having established this parliamentary base, El Himma and his political associates announced the creation of the MTD (Mouvement pour tous les Democrates). This association set out on a road show, visiting all regions in Morocco and establishing important links with local notables that would prove invaluable during the local elections in 2009. As an open association and not yet a fully-fledged party, it was possible for El Himma’s initiative to attract other party members as well as recruiting potential neophyte party activists” (415).
As explained, the reason that the Authenticity and Modernity Party formed was to offer a new message contrary to that offered by the Islamist Justice and Development Party. Part of the objective that the PAM (Morocco) wanted to push was not only on pushing back against Islamism and religious conservatism. For example, Ilyas El Omari, who leads the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) was quoted as saying that “We are aiming to develop society by tackling creeping conservatism both within the state and outside” (Berman, 2016). He also went on to add that “”What’s happening in our society is scary… violent reactions against the modernization of social mores” (Berman, 2016).
Part of the message has also been to appeal to notions of human rights, and women’s rights in Morocco, as a way to gain supporters within the country. So, as Omari noted, the platform of the PAM in Morocco “includes human rights, empowering women, and fighting terrorism through security and military means, but also ideological means. We also support the integration of technology into government and the necessary reform and modernization of education” (Berman, 2016). The Authenticity and Modernity Party has tried to challenge PJD positions on women’s rights, such as their interpretations for inheritance (the PJD worked to argue against equal inheritance both both genders). They also have spoken out against some PJD positions on the exact role of women in Morocco’s parliament (Berman, 2016). On this issue, Omari was quoted as saying that ” “The PAM is built on the connection between modernity and democracy” (Berman, 2016). He went on to add that “There is no modernity or democracy without progress in women’s rights” (Berman, 2016). So, one way that PAM in Morocco has tried to show their seriousness towards women’s rights in parliament is by having two electoral lists that are only made up of female political candidates. For the PAM, they would like to have close to 100 women members of parliament (Berman, 2016) (which is still far from equal compared to the population of Morocco).
However, the PAM (Morocco) has also been viewed as a tool by the King to set up an alternate party to pose an electoral threat to the PJD. This new party, the Party for Authenticity and Modernity ended up coming together “…with RNI to form the largest coalition in Parliament—“Rally and Modernity”—and the MP and UC are expected to follow suit. El Himma is relying on the three parties most known for lacking a clear message and being nothing more than a collection of pro-palace elites. Representatives from these parties are primarily rural notables and urban elites who gain parliamentary seats due to their patronage networks. They have little to no contact with their constituents and typically move from party to party” Liddell, 2008).
The reason that some are critical of this party is again because of the alliance PAM in Morocco has with King Mohammed VI. One of the reasons has to do with the relationship between the King and El Himma; the two used to go to school together, and are friends (Liddell, 2008). There are concerns that his ability to be in constant contact with the King (Liddell, 2008) gives him an advantage in the politics of Morocco. As Daadaoui (2016) writes: “Al-Himma’s life and formative political experiences have been informed by his palace education alongside Mohammed VI and by an equally crucial time in the Ministry of the Interior. Over his career, al-Himma has mastered the core principles of the makhzen (deep authoritarian state structure) in the kingdom, namely the division of the political scene, electoral engineering and the drowning political dissent with palace-friendly parties in the name of “rationalization of the party system.””
Another example further illustrates the linkages between the King and the Authenticity and Modernity Party under El-Himma. For instance, “When the current Minister of Housing and Urban Policy, and Secretary General of the leftist Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS), Nabil Ben Abdallah, alluded to al-Himma’s relationship with the PAM, the royal cabinet issued an unprecedented communiqué chiding the minister for his comments. In a carefully planned electoral system, the regime sets the boundaries of acceptable political discourse” (Daadaoui, 2016). The King is very careful to not be seen as tied to the political elections in the country, especially in recent years since he has seen what has happened to other non-democratic leaders during the Arab uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East (Daadaoui, 2016).
Thus, while there are clear criticisms levied at the PAM and El-Himma, and ties between the two friends that seems to extend into Moroccan politics, this has not stopped others within the Moroccan political system from joining his alliance. For example, shortly after forming the new PAM Party, “Once he joined parliament, more than one hundred and twenty deputies came knocking at his door, prepared to leave their parties to join his coalition” (Liddell, 2008).
The attraction of Morocco’s political elite to El Himma’s party appears to be about positioning themselves closer to the gravitational center of power rather than creating any actual recipe for development” (Liddell, 2008). El-Himma even used language reminiscent of the language used by Hassan II. The idea seems to be progress, but in a fashion that is not immediately, thus greatly altering historical Moroccan traditions (Liddell, 2008).
Interestingly, when Hassan II was advocating for political and social reforms in Morocco, not only did he use the slogan “authenticity and modernity,” but even before that, “There is an old 1959 photograph of late King Mohamed V on a tractor in traditional Moroccan dress. At the time it was a display of advancement to introduce tractors in the agricultural area of Larbaah El Gharbi. Wearing a traditional djellaba, it was as if the head of the new independent kingdom wanted to reassure the population that modernity can be coupled with keeping tradition alive.” As Boussaid (2009) points out, the PAM (Morocco) have chosen the tractor as the symbol for the party (not be any coincidence).
Plus, the PAM has framed the discourse as an either/or. Either you are open to this party, which is the one speaking of the future and modern direction of Morocco, or you are backing the Islamists, who, if they had their way, would look to set up a Shariah based government under a Khalifah (Liddell, 2008).
The concern, here, like under Hassan II, is that political elites are using the language of progress and change, all the while finding a way to better themselves (Liddell, 2008). In the case of the PAM (Morocco), the worry is that the right language will be used, but in reality, it will be just another way for these leaders to continue embarking on the clientalism that is already embedded in the political system.
Again, while this argument is often used by secularists to suppress Islamists, it does not hold a lot of weight in Morocco. The reason? The PJD in Morocco has done a good job of highlighting how democracy and Islam can clearly co-exist. Plus, their calls against corruption and elitism, through a rigid ethical code within the party (Liddell, 2008) has made it difficult to easily buy the claims of the Authenticity and Modernity.
PAM and the 2008, and 2011 Elections
Because El Himma was able to bring parliamentary members from their existing parties and to the PAM, they had 39 seats in parliament. They first ran in the 2008 elections, but not faring well. So, instead of looking for support by running ex military members and Moroccan intellectuals, the party turned to never politicians, individuals who had not had the same political experience. Thus, they turned their attention towards well known business elites in many rural areas of Morocco, which not only gave them the ability to craft their own party lists, but they also worked to helping finance the operations (Boussaid, 2008). Their approach and work during the local elections paid off, as they were able to win 6015 total seats. Given the amount of seats in rural areas, this strategy was very beneficial to the PAM in Morocco (Boussaid, 2008).
The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) in Morocco ran in their first parliamentary elections in 2011. The party go fourth place in these elections.
PAM and the 2015 Local Elections
Despite the less than stellar vote for the PAM in the 2011 elections, they seemed to have increased their popularity, and have been able to “beat the PJD in local elections…[in 2015], capturing five of the country’s twelve regional council chairs and winning the largest number of municipal council seats” (Feuer, 2016). It was this political victory that the PAM rode into the 2016 elections.
PAM and the 2016 Elections
The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) came in second during the 2016 elections in Morocco. They won 102 votes, which was below 125 votes won by the Justice and Development Party.
Part of the reason that Authenticity and Modernity has not done as well has been in part because of the perceived linkages that they have to the King. As mentioned, the PAM in Morocco, along with some others, are perceived to be too close to the King. This has been a benefit to the Islamist PJD. As Daadaoui (2016) writes, “Rival parties have struggled to separate themselves from popular complaints with the regime. Even after years in government, many Moroccans see the PJD as transparent and incorruptible, a perception that the party has used to its advantage.” In fact, the Justice and Development Party understands the perception of PAM as an affiliate of the King, and themselves have used this in their own campaigning leading up to the elections. For example, PJD leader Benkirane called the Justice and Development Party “the party of the people.” This was not only a saying to further tie the Islamists to Moroccans, but it was also a jab at Authenticity and Modernity’s linkages to Mohammad VI (Daadoui, 2016).
Given the improvement in electoral success, it will be interesting to see if the PAM in Morocco can challenge the PJD for support in the country. It will also be interesting to examine the ties between the PAM and the government of Morocco, and specifically, the PAM and the King of Morocco.
PAM (Morocco) References
Berman, I. (2016). Morocco’s Liberal Challengers. Foreign Affairs. October 5, 2016.
Boussaid, F. (2009). The Rise of the PAM in Morocco: Trampling the Political Scence or Stumbling into it? Mediterranean Politics. Vol. 14, No. 3, pages 413-419.
Daadoui, M. (2016). In Morocco’s election last week, the major Islamist party won again. Here’s what that means. The Washington Post. October 13, 2016. Available Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/13/what-moroccos-election-results-tell-us-about-islamist-parties/
Feuer, S. (2016). Morocco’s Legislative Elections Will Test the Reform Process. Washington Institute. October 6, 2016. Available Online: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/moroccos-legislative-elections-will-test-the-reform-process
Liddell, J. (2008). Morocco: Modern Politics or the Politics of Modernity? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Sada: Middle East Analysis. December 8, 2008. Available Online: file:///Users/fmuedini/Desktop/Authenticity%20and%20Modernity/Morocco:%20Modern%20Politics%20or%20the%20Politics%20of%20Modernity%3F%20-%20Carnegie%20Endowment%20for%20International%20Peace.webarchive