By Shadi Hamid
When it comes to the failures of Islamist movements during and after the Arab Spring, the case of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) has often been treated as a success story. This success, of course, is relative, and the bar is low. But compared to, say, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the PJD seems to offer a much more promising model of how an Islamist party can adapt and evolve in challenging circumstances. Not only did the party survive, but it also reached an accommodation with the Moroccan monarchy and even rose to power. PJD leaders promoted this narrative as well, with one party official proudly telling a Western researcher in the wake of Egypt’s coup: “Now people should study us.”
While there were always weaknesses to these claims of Moroccan exceptionalism, they have only become more evident with time. Recent developments, including the PJD’s spectacular electoral defeat in 2021, suggest the need for a more careful assessment of what went right — and what went wrong — with Morocco’s Islamist experiment. To the extent that there still remains a Moroccan “model,” it may be better understood as a model of what not to do.