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Moderate Islamists poised to win poll

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-11-27

The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party led by Abdelilah Benkirane (pictured) is poised to win Friday's parliamentary elections in Morocco, the government has confirmed. Final results from the interior ministry are expected on Sunday.

AFP  Morocco on Sunday awaited final results from polls in which moderate Islamists emerged as the dominant political force, the latest religious party to achieve huge gains on the back of the Arab Spring.

With 288 out of the 395 seats up for grabs in the lower house of parliament awarded, the Justice and Development Party (PJD) captured 80 seats in the election, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said Saturday.

Voting by illustration
Each party is illustrated by a picture for illiterate voters. Photo: Marc Daou/ FRANCE 24.

That is nearly double the 45 seats won in Friday's polls by Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi's Independence Party, which finished second and has headed a five-party coalition government since 2007.

The interior ministry is scheduled to release final election results on Sunday at 5:00 pm (1700 GMT).

If the preliminary results are confirmed, the PJD's victory will come just one month after Islamists won Tunisia's post-revolution election and days before their predicted surge in Egyptian polls.

It will also mark the first time in Morocco's modern history that an Islamist party won an election and went on to form part of the government.

Under a new constitution overwhelmingly approved in a July referendum, King Mohammed VI will have to name a prime minister from the PJD.

The king, the latest scion of a monarchy that has ruled the country for 350 years, proposed changes to the constitution that curb some of his near absolute powers as autocratic regimes toppled in nearby Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and pro-democracy protests brewed at home.

The new government will have to work with the king, who still retains broad powers and acts as arbitrator, at a time when Morocco is facing signficant challenges, such as high youth unemployment and worsening public finances.

"The standard will be set by the king," said political scientist Khadija Mohsen, a specialist on Morocco.

"He will continue to chair the Council of Ministers and can not content himself to be outside of the system."

PJD officials said Saturday their own figures suggested they were on track to win over 100 seats in the assembly, about a quarter of the total, but even with this result they will have to govern with other parties.

The leader of the Islamist party, Abdellah Benkirane, said he was willing to form an

alliance with any party and he acknowledged that his party would have to tailor its programme to appease its coalition partners.

"We will be required to revise our programme to come up with a common programme. But the nub of our programme and of those who will govern with us will have a double axis, democracy and good governance," he told the France 24 television channel on Saturday.

"Moroccans insisted to keep their monarchy, but they want it to evolve with them."

After winning just eight seats in 1997, the PJD surged in popularity, scooping 42 seats in the 2002 election, the first of King Mohammed VI's reign.

It then increased its share in the last election in 2007 when it finished second with 47 seats.

The party focused at first on social issues, such as opposition to summer music festivals and the sale of alcohol, but has shifted to issues with broader voter appeal like the fight against corruption and high unemployment.

During the current campaign it promised to cut poverty in half and raise the minimum wage by 50 percent.

Voter turnout was 45.4 percent, up from 37 percent from the last parliamentary election in 2007, but lower than the 51.6 percent turnout recorded in 2002.

Morocco's pro-reform February 20 protest movement, responsible for protests held just before the king announced plans to change the constitution, had called on voters

Date created : 2011-11-26

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