The election of Abdellatif Ouahbi as General Secretary of the Parti authenticité et modernité (PAM) will shake up Morocco’s largest opposition party. If he continues to push for a new direction for the party — and especially if he opts to form an alliance with the Parti de la justice et du dévéloppement (PJD) — he could end up splitting the PAM, with a large exodus of the party’s more traditional members to the Rassemblement national des indépendants (RNI). This would result in a new configuration of Morocco’s political scene that will be played out during the 2021 elections.
Ouahbi will also have to see how the Palace responds to his leadership. As a leftist, he is already likely to be viewed as a less than favourable leader for such a party. His recent demands that the imprisoned protestors from the Hirak Rif should be released will not have done him any favours in this respect.
Not only will such a stance unsettle those traditionalists inside his party but it is also unlikely to have gone down well with the Palace. While Ouahbi may feel that he is riding the crest of a wave — with his supporters viewing him as a hero who is standing up to the system — many members of the PAM wouldn’t think twice, if the Palace gives the right hint, about moving out and joining the King’s new party of choice, which would probably be the RNI.
It is therefore clear that Ouahbi has his work cut out. If he carries on down the same path, he is going to struggle to bury the differences between the two wings of the party and achieve proper internal reconciliation. He is more likely to end up shattering the party, with the legitimacy current breaking away and large sections of the party membership dissolving, or joining the RNI.
Thus, while Ouahbi is seeking to shake up the political scene, he may end up doing so in a way he hadn’t anticipated. Indeed, he may find himself the leader of a party that goes into the 2021 elections having lost much of its appeal and popularity.