Aziz Akhannouch Blazing After Last Moroccan Parliamentary Elections

  • Aziz Akhannouch’s opposition; The Islamist Party collapsed in the last elections 
  • His party obtained the most votes
  • He is a close friend of King Mohammed VI
Aziz Akhannouch - Morocco
Source: The guardian

Why is Aziz Akhannouch’s heat level blazing? 

Answer: Aziz Akhannouch’s party just won the parliamentary elections in Morocco and he has been appointed Prime Minister

On the 8th of September parliamentary as well as local and regional elections were held in Morocco. The results of these elections definitely indicate that change is coming to the North African country. 

Like it has been the case for many other Arab countries, Moroccan politics in the last 10 years have been influenced by the events of the Arab Uprisings in 2011. In this year in Morocco the Islamist Party, called the Justice and Development Party  (from now on referred to as the PJD because of its French acronym), got to power and it remained there up until now.

In these last elections, the PJD sank from 125 seats to only 13. By contrast, Aziz Akhannouch’s party, the National Rally of Independents (from now on referred to as the RNI because of its French acronym) blazed in these elections winning 102 of the 395 seats, which makes it the most-voted party. Furthermore, his party was also successful in both the local and regional elections.

This change of paradigm can be explained by several factors. First of all, the PJD electorate was disappointed with the party after it proved unable to actually enforce its ideology. So much so, that during the electoral campaign his candidate, el-Othmani, was expelled from a market as the people protested about his performance as Prime Minister. In fact, after the electoral results, el-Othmani resigned as Secretary-General of the party.

Furthermore, it is unquestionable that the RNI led a remarkable campaign, seeking to reach all parts of the country, however remote or small. For that, Aziz Akhannouch invested more than $200,000 from his own money. Furthermore, he is an economist who has already occupied the posts of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and Economics. Especially after the pandemic, poverty is one of the main worries of the Moroccan population, which makes Aziz Akhannouch the favourite candidate to improve the economical situation of the country and its people.

Who is changing Aziz Akhannouch’s temperature?

Answer: The de facto power in Morocco is the King, currently Mohammed VI, however, Aziz Akhannouch is good friends with him, which reinforces his own power.

Aziz Akhannouch was born into a rich family, his father having founded Akwa Group, an oil and gas company that has made him the second wealthiest person in Morocco after the King himself. However, he has always been involved in politics. In fact, he was part of the coalition that kept the PJD in power for the last 10 years, having occupied the position of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 2007 till now. Moreover, the King asked him to lead the Ministry of Economics in 2013. 

So, he has always been a powerful man in Morocco, because of his money as well as because of his position as Minister. Thus, becoming Prime Minister makes him even more powerful than he used to be. This statement could be contested arguing that the King is the real power of the country. After all, it is vox populi that the King has the de facto control of some of the most important ministries, like the Ministries of Sovereignty, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Interior.

However, Aziz Akhannouch is close to the King and a man he trusts, so we can expect the King to give him more power than his predecessor and for both of them to combine their power to rule the country together, while giving a democratic image. In fact, this may have been the King’s idea. He was not entirely comfortable with the PJD as the governing party. It is therefore plausible that he assisted Aziz Akhannouch in his campaign, in order to have an ally in the Government. 

What is driving Aziz Akhannouch? 

Answer: Aziz Akhannouch’s own political ambitions, as well as his wish for a stronger Morocco.

After having been appointed Prime Minister by the King, Aziz Akhannouch announced that he will not be working in his businesses anymore to focus all his efforts on his new duties. Having been involved in politics for more than ten years already, becoming Prime Minister is definitely the peak of his political career. This explains such a big decision like stepping back from his family’s businesses.

During the pandemic, the King appointed a team of technocrats who dealt quite well with its economic consequences, which meant a rise in his legitimacy. As above mentioned, the economy is definitely one of the main worries amongst the Moroccan population and that is precisely Aziz Akhannouch’s specialization.

Besides, Aziz Akhannouch has expressed that he will implement his majesty‘s vision”. Taking this into account and regarding the international scene, we can expect him to keep trying to reinforce Morocco‘s position there. Indeed, this has been the policy of the King in recent times. Mohammed VI has been trying to strengthen his country‘s position vis à vis the European Union, other African countries, the US and other important international actors, such as Russia and China. We can therefore expect Aziz Akhannouch to carry on with these kinds of policies.

What does this mean for you? 

Answer: Aziz Akhannouch’s appointment as new Prime Minister means change within Morocco but also on the international scene.

Morocco takes a far greater role in international politics than it is given due credit for. Its importance as a strategic geopolitical point is undeniable, not only because of its geographical position but also because of its cultural situation. 

Aziz Akhannouch’s appointment as Prime Minister will bring more political stability to the country, considering that, as he said, he will support the King’s decisions and policies, sometimes contested by the former Islamist ruling party. The PJD was a consequence of the Arab Uprisings of 2011, which aimed at reducing the King’s power. Thus, the former Prime Minister and the King didn’t always agree on the direction Morocco should take. This will not be the case with Aziz Akhannouch in office. He and the King agree that Morocco should play a bigger role in international politics and take a stronger stance on the international scene.

Silvia Cortina Fernández

Research and Analysis Intern