2021 will be an important year for Morocco because it will be dominated by the national, local and regional elections which may well deliver a new political configuration.
Although the ruling Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD) is still likely to come first in the polls — not least because of its superior ability to organise and mobilise — it may not achieve the same kind of lead as it has done in previous elections. Given its waning popularity, as well as its internal splits, it could well see its lead shrink and thereby necessitate it having to share power with a larger number of parties. It could also conceivably be forced into opposition if the other parties decide to close ranks against it.
Yet, even if there is a new political configuration and a shift in the balance of power between the political parties, one shouldn’t expect any new government to deliver radical change. The country’s political elite will continue to be comprised of the same old faces and will continue to struggle with the same constraints. As such, it will prove just as inept at delivering on the necessary reform agenda as the outgoing government.
This means that the deep rooted social and economic grievances will continue to fester, and trust in the political class will be eroded even further. Increasing many Moroccans will conclude that the country’s political class is unable to serve them or their interests. Consequently, Morocco could well experience more protests and even bouts of civil unrest during 2021.
The situation will be exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Even if Morocco succeeds in containing the virus, including through vaccinations, the pandemic’s impact on the economy and on living standards will be far-reaching and severe. Many of these consequences will only start to unfold in 2021 so the coming year will be a very challenging one.
In the international arena, however, Morocco will do everything it can to capitalise on the momentum it has managed to create over the Western Sahara issue. It will seek to further consolidate its control over the disputed territory, including by convincing other states to recognise its sovereignty over the Western Sahara. It will press ahead on this front regardless of whether President Joe Biden reverses Donald Trump’s decision. The Kingdom will also maintain its focus on increasing its presence and reach in Africa with the aim of transforming itself in a major regional player.