Spotlight: Morocco's ruling Islamist party holds extraordinary meeting amid unprecedented division

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RABAT, July 15 (Xinhua) -- An extraordinary meeting of the parliament of Morocco's ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party kicked off here on Saturday amid unprecedented division in the party.

The extraordinary meeting aims to adopt documents paving the way for electing new leadership during the general assembly of the party by the end of this year.

Since the ousting of its charismatic leader Abdelilah Benkirane as Prime Minister and his replacement by Saadeddine El Othmani, number two in the party, the latter has been witnessing a growing internal crisis.

In March, Morocco's king Mohammed VI decided to dismiss Benkirane and appointed El Othmani, after the former had failed to form a government since October 2016 parliamentary elections, which made PJD the first party to lead a government for a second consecutive term in the modern history of the kingdom.

While the party approved the king's decision, many leaders of the party as well as a wide segments of its grassroots have strongly criticized El Othmani for making "too much concessions" to his partnering parties.

After being nominated as PM, El Othmani changed his predecessor's position to acquiesce to a major alliance party's demands to widen coalition talks. The current PM added up two parties to the former coalition government.

Apart from the criticism on the media, a clear sign of the party's crisis was its failure to hold a meeting of its leadership for three months, and when it was hold, it did not succeed to release a statement as the party used to do.

One of the controversial issues is the election of a new leader of the party.

Benkirane, currently serving his second term as PJD Secretary General since 2008, cannot run for a third mandate unless internal laws of the party are changed.

While many members of the party support the change of the internal laws of the party, many see in such move a contradiction with the party's widely reputed democratic conduct.

Benkirane is one of the most popular politicians in the country. Since his election in 2008, he has led PJD to three major wins in Moroccan parliamentary and municipal elections in 2011, 2015, and 2016. Enditem

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