Morocco elections: leftist unity shattered as PSU withdraws

Morocco elections: Dreams of a united left dashed in Morocco as PSU withdraws
5 min read
26 Aug, 2021
Opinion: Nabila Mounib's shock decision to withdraw the United Socialist Party from the Federation of the Democratic Left brought an end to hopes of a united leftist bloc in the country's September election, writes Mohamed Ahmed Bennis.
Nabila Mounib's withdrawal of the PSU from the FGD coalition not long before Morocco's elections has caused anger across the left [Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

The Moroccan left suffered yet another setback in early July after the Secretary-General of the United Socialist Party (PSU), Nabila Mounib, decided to withdraw the party from the Federation of the Democratic Left (FGD).

The FGD coalition had brought the United Socialist Party together with the Socialist Democratic Vanguard Party (PADS) and the National Congress Party (CNI). The three were due to join forces under the banner of FGD, nominating joint candidates for the coming legislative elections.

The end of another chapter for the Moroccan left

Mounib's decision signals an end to the tri-party alliance forged in 2014, which was considered at the time to be a progressive step on the path towards harmonising the various elements of the left and building a large left-wing party, especially as the reformist left, led by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), had otherwise reached a dead end. 

Despite Mounib's attempts to defend the withdrawal, stating she saw it as "saving her party from the unknown", and her claim that the withdrawal decision only concerned the professional elections (that determine ministerial posts presiding over industry, trade and services, traditional industry, fishing and agriculture), her decision provoked a furious response.

"Mounib's decision signals an end to the tri-party alliance forged in 2014, which was considered at the time to be a progressive step on the path towards harmonising the various elements of the left"

In her own party, two prominent leaders criticised the move, slamming her for prioritising her personal decision over that of the party. The two other FGD parties consider her withdrawal a betrayal of "the fundamental rules and regulations of the Federation at an urgent moment, without convincing justification".

Intra-left squabbling and a fixation on leadership

Furthermore, there are rumours that Mounib's decision was due to the FGD high committee's refusal to allow her preferred PSU nominee onto the candidate list in Casablanca-Settat, due to a prior agreement that a CNI candidate would stand there (representing the FGD).

If this is true, it confirms that the Moroccan left is unable to absorb the intellectual, political and cultural developments of the last three decades, and is still clinging to an obsession with leadership, an avoidance of difference, a reliance upon ideology, and a refusal to adopt democratic measures to manage solutions to internal divisions.

Even the left's discourse on the parliamentary monarchy, the separation of powers, and the importance of attaching accountability to responsibility doesn't seem credible when most of its political and cultural organisations (which embrace these principles) still lack representation within the left. These are cultural values that can only be drawn from the wellsprings of modernity - not from tradition. 

Failure to adapt to a changing landscape   

Morocco's political scene has witnessed deep transformations which can be sensed in how the balance of forces in the country have realigned. While the regime has succeeded in re-shaping the political sphere after Morocco's Arab spring was knocked back, moderate political Islam has failed to alter the fundamental power dynamics. 

Moreover, the traditional parties, trade unions and civil society institutions have further declined as new forms of protest have risen: social media channels have provided a virtual public space in which a new political discourse has been built, bypassing and rejecting the old methods used to manage public affairs and discourse.

It was assumed that these changes would open up an opportunity for the Federation of the Democratic Left to crystallise a 'third way' between the conservative social project led by the Justice and Development Party (Islamist) and the liberal project which serves the interests of business and finance, and which is led by parties close to the government.

"The FGD has not only failed in its declared goal of producing an integrated left; it has also failed to mobilise Moroccan society"

This path could have forged a broad social vision, which could have convinced Moroccans, or some of them at least, and could have reinstated a sense of trust that activism through political parties could change something.

But what happened in the FGD has diminished its chances of bringing about any change to the political scene during the coming elections. This is even more true, given that the ideological boundaries between the different Moroccan parties have in effect collapsed into one another, and the FGD has been unable to forge a new political legitimacy, instead fixating on questions around leadership.

The FGD has not only failed in its declared goal of producing an integrated left; it has also failed to mobilise Moroccan society, which could have formed a nourishing tributary aiding its renewal in the light of the current political stagnation - itself the result of 10 years in which the Justice and Development Party has administered public affairs without a convincing political and social result.


The deadlock in which FGD has found itself is structural; not circumstantial. It is connected to its inability, and the inability of the Moroccan left in general, to boldly confront issues of change and reform with a new discourse; one which rebuilds a relationship with today's reality, aims to understand it, and frees itself from the restrictive chains of ideology.

Mohamed Ahmed Bennis is a Moroccan poet and writer. 

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.