This month Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani finally managed to pull a new government out of the bag just in time for the re-opening of parliament, despite many believing he would be tripped up by the other parties in his ruling alliance.
Yet — while the reshuffle may have marked a success in political manoeuvring on Othmani’s part — it did not go anywhere near as far as the King Mohamed VI had demanded in his throne day speech on 29 July 2019. The King had called on Othmani to bring better, more qualified and competent individuals into the cabinet who could bring about the ‘radical change’ demanded by the next development phase.
That is not to say that there were not some dramatic changes in this reshuffle. Othmani has considerably reduced the size of the cabinet from 39 to 24, of whom 18 are ministers and five are ministers delegate. Some ministries were amalgamated but others, such as the Governance and General Government Affairs Ministry, were abolished altogether.
However, the new line up can hardly be described as a government of new faces or of ‘high-level national elites, chosen on merit and competence’, which is what the King had requested in his July speech.
Instead, Othmani ended up with more of a pared down version of what was there before, with a government comprising a limited number of new faces, with many of these new appointees seemingly chosen because of their party loyalty rather than any particular technocratic competence. Many of those who were selected were party stalwarts rather than the fresh-faced independent technocrats that many Moroccans had been hoping for. The new government was also disappointing in terms of female representation with the number of women ministers being halved from eight to just four.
Most importantly, this reshuffle has weakened the Parti de la justice et du dévéloppement’s (PJD) influence inside the government and will make the job of ruling even more challenging. The other political parties that make up the ruling alliance will seize upon the PJD’s weakness to try to further hinder it and undermine its ability to govern in order to further weaken its popular appeal.
The prospect of the upcoming elections to the PJD’s general secretariat will engender further competition between Othmani and his predecessor Abdelilah Benkirane with both men trying to attract as many supporters as they can to their side. This will deepen divisions within the PJD.