Major internal crisis could split Morocco’s Istiqlal Party

Morocco

Published on Thursday, 23 June 2022 Back to articles

Nizar Baraka (L) and Hamdi Ould Rachid (R) in happier times

The Istiqlal Party — which is part of the ruling coalition — is undergoing a major internal crisis that is threatening to rip it apart and that could also have a knock-on impact on the governing coalition.  At the root of this crisis is the split that has developed inside the party between two competing factions: one led by the current Secretary General, Nizar Baraka(b.1964), — who is also current Minister for Water and Equipment and grandson of the party’s founder Allal Al-Fassi (1910-1974) — and the other headed by Hamdi Ould Rachid(b.1971).  This split came to a head in June and Ould Rachid is leading a campaign to try to undermine Baraka and his supporters. 

These divisions will continue to escalate and could result in a fracturing of the party. Although its elite will do its utmost to try to hold things together, the antagonism between the two main factions is such that doing so will prove challenging. If Hamid Ould Rachid’s current makes further attempts to undermine Nizar Baraka things could well come to a head at the party’s planned national conference in August. Any split of the party, or the dominance of the Ould Rachid faction, would have a knock-on impact on the Morocco’s ruling coalition and could prompt a government reshuffle. 

The current debate over women’s inheritance rights will also persist, with leftist parties and progressive NGOs taking up the cause, and the Islamist opposition parties standing most forcefully against it. However, given the conservative nature of Moroccan society, those pushing for equal rights are unlikely to get very far. 

Morocco’s relations with Saudi Arabia are continuing to improve and will strengthen with increased levels of Saudi investment expected in the coming months. 

Spain’s willingness to stand by its recent policy change and support Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed Western Sahara — which Morocco has occupied since the mid-1970s when Spain withdrew from its former colony — will continue to aggravate Algeria which has sought to punish Madrid for its major policy change. The latter will find it difficult to extricate itself from this regional power struggle which is currently escalating rather than abating. 

Although Rabat and Algiers are unlikely to allow the situation to escalate to the point of open confrontation, bilateral relations will remain extremely tense with no prospect of improvement in the near future. 

Advances are being made in the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP) project with Abuja showing its keenness to progress. Although it is far from being a done deal yet, Rabat will push hard for the important and prestigious project to come to fruition. If it succeeds, it will enable the Kingdom to: secure alternative gas supplies; extend its role in Sub-Saharan Africa; stymie the rival long-planned Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) project from Nigeria to Europe via Niger and Algeria; and make it an even more critical partner for Europe. 

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

The June 2022 issues of Morocco Focus also includes the following:

Politics

  • Major internal crisis could split Istiqlal Party  
  • Who is Hamdi Ould Rachid?
  • Chasing out Hamid Chabat
  • Differences surface over ministerial appointments
  • Inheritance row is brewing

International Relations

  • Moroccan-Saudi relations on the rise
  • Spain reiterates its backing for Rabat’s Western Sahara autonomy plan
  • Trouble with Algeria
  • EU hits back

Security

  • African Lion military exercise kicks off 

Energy & Economy

  • Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP) project moves nearer
  • Butane gas distributors announce two-day strike

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