Morocco’s Justice and Development party elects new head

Saadeddine El Othmani has been appointed the new secretary-general of Morocco’s ruling Justice and Development Party during the 8th National Congress over the weekend.

After counting the 1,943 ballots cast, El Othmani won by 1,006 votes against Driss El Azami who won 912 votes.

Outgoing head of government, Abdelilah Benkirane, will be succeeded by El Othmani after the National Council refused Benkirane from running for the post for a third time due to the party’s regulations which allow its head to run for leadership twice.

“Many were waiting for us to be divided, to fail, but you have proven them wrong,” El Othmani said in a speech, insisting on the party’s responsibility to continue its mission and defend the values of the Kingdom.

A psychiatrist, 61-year-old El Othmani was PJD’s secretary-general from 2004 until 2008 and served as foreign minister from January 2012 to October 2013.

A few days before Congress, the PJD was called upon to vote on a crucial provision of Article 16 of the party’s internal regulations which limits the terms of the SG to two terms.

Read: Party votes against third term for Morocco’s Benkirane

The debate around Article 16 was debated after Benkirane failed to form a coalition government in the aftermath of the 7 October legislative elections this year. The negotiations around the formation of the government, labelled as the infamous “government deadlock”, lasted over six months in which Benkirane lost his seat as head of government and King Mohammed VI instructed El Othmani to form a government.

El Othmani thanked his predecessor, Benkirane, and his rival in the race, both had expressed the same desire to affirm the absence of division within the party.

The 8th National Congress of the PJD also elected members of the new National Council, which includes 40 women and 53 youth members.