Benkirane plays the morality card


Published on Thursday 20 June 2024 Back to articles

PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane

Although the opposition may be weak, the ever-provocative Abdelilah Benkirane — the 2011-2017 prime minister and current Parti de la justice et du développement’s (PJD) leader — continues to voice loud attacks against the government. This month, he once again laid into Justice Minister, Abdelatif Ouahbi over the latter’s proposed reforms to the Family Code (Moudawana) and other criminal legislation that pertains to personal freedoms and women’s rights. More specifically, in a 7 June video statement, he accused Ouahbi of facilitating ‘immoral relationships.’ 

His comments relate to Ouahbi’s parliamentary statement last month criticising the practice of hotels which demand marriage certificates from couples wanting to share a room despite the fact that they are not legally obliged to do so. Ouahbi noted that, ‘Asking people for a marriage certificate is against the law. Those who ask for this document at the hotel are breaking the law and can face legal action.’ He also asserted that hotels who make such requests were violating people’s privacy. 

This was not the first time the justice minister has drawn attention to this issue. In October 2023, he argued that the practice was unfair and unjust, remarking that it assumed guilt before any wrongdoing had occurred. Ouahbi has also criticised the questioning unaccompanied female clients and for refusing reservations to women who want to stay in hotel accommodation in the same city in which they reside. 

Ouahbi’s latest comments provoked an angry backlash among more conservative elements. In early June the PJD’s women’s wing condemned Ouahbi and said that banning hotels from requesting marriage certificates was ‘irresponsible’ and potentially damaging to the moral and social fabric of Moroccan society. It also called on all Moroccans to rally around ‘common national principles,’ and to ‘confront anyone who attempts to tamper with the security of the community.’ 

Benkirane was no less forthright, seizing upon the opportunity to once again posit the PJD as the defender of the country’s morals and traditions. He condemned Ouahbi for enabling immoral relationships, and pointed out that the demand for marriage certificates by hotels prevented people from committing adultery. Benkirane also claimed that a number of hotels had complied with Ouahbi’s request but that, because criminal laws had not been changed, those involved had been arrested by the police for ‘preparing a den for immorality.’ 

Ouahbi will pay little heed to Benkirane’s attacks, but it is indicative of the way in which some sections of Moroccan society are likely to respond as and when the proposed reforms to the Family Code and other criminal laws are made public. They are currently with the King and his endorsement of them will temper some of the criticism. However, Benkirane knows that the best way for the PJD to try to claw back some of the popularity and legitimacy that it once enjoyed, will be to milk this issue for all it is worth. While Benkirane will be careful about not being seen to be going against the King, he is likely to rail against any radical changes and argue that they are contrary to Islamic and Moroccan values. 

This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The June 2024 issue of Morocco Focus also includes the following:


  • MPs complain about ministers’ refusal to be questioned… 
  • Implications
  • Benkirane lays into Justice Minister Ouahbi over Family Code…
  • Energy minister in the eye of a scandal


  • Two new military industrial zones to be established
  • More terrorist suspects are arrested… 

Energy & Economy

  • Sound Energy partially divests gas assets

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