Focusing on basics over beards

The Islamic party has pledged to fight corruption and create jobs.

    About 40 per cent of Morocco's 30 million people live in poverty  [AFP]

    Morocco's leading opposition Justice and Development party (PJD) plans to focus on the everyday concerns of voters rather than on religion in the election campaign, according to its leader.

    Analysts expect the party to advance in the September 7 parliamentary election and it may emerge as the largest group in a poll contested by more than 30 political parties.

    Elections 2007

    A series of special reports

    Observers see the PJD's performance as a measure of the scale of disillusionment with the secular and liberal elites that have ruled Morocco for the last 50 years.

    Parliament has only limited powers in the North African country where the king controls key areas - from the army to religious affairs, as well as appointing the prime minister and vetoing laws.

    Analysts say the election should, however, help to revitalise parts of the ruling elite body.

    Inspired by Islam

    Abdelilah Benkiran, a PJD leader, said: "Our agenda is without doubt inspired by our Islamic background, but a religious background linked to the citizen's needs.

    "The citizens suffer from poverty, unemployment, a housing crisis and problems in education and healthcare.

    "Frankly, the citizens would not back us in the polls to impose veils on women and force men to grow beards and people to come to mosques."

    The PJD, founded in 1996, has 42 seats in the current 325-member parliament.

    It has pledged to fight corruption and create jobs in a country where an estimated 40 per cent of the 30 million people live in poverty.

    The PJD promises to trim unemployment in cities from 15.5 per cent currently to 12.5 per cent and from 3.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent in rural areas.

    It wants to double the rate of economic growth to seven per cent.

    "Fighting corruption is a PJD priority. Without ending corruption, Morocco would never develop its economy and society even if it pours huge money into development projects," Benkiran said.

    Morocco appears to be struggling to curb corruption.

    It was listed 45th in a survey by Transparency International, a corruption watchdog group, in 1999 but has slumped to 78th in its latest survey.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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