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Ruling Islamists win new mandate in Moroccan election

Fadel Senna, AFP | Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (centre) will lead efforts to build a new coalition government around his Justice and Development Party (PJD).

Morocco’s moderate ruling Islamist party has defeated a liberal rival seen as close to the royal palace in Friday’s parliamentary elections, increasing its share of seats in parliament, final results show.


The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) took 125 seats while the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) -- which had campaigned against the "Islamisation" of Moroccan society -- took 102, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The ruling party, which came to power in the wake of Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011, added 18 seats to its tally from five years ago. Istiqlal, one of the country's oldest parties, came third with 46 seats in the 395 seat-chamber.

While the PJD has strengthened its lead, the tight result means it faces complex negotiations to form a new coalition government.

Real power will remain in the hands of King Mohammed VI, the scion of a monarchy that has ruled the North African country for 350 years.

'Islamists face a number of coalition options'

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said the election was "transparent" and had gone well, rejecting accusations of voter fraud from both the Islamist camp and their liberal rivals.

The PJD earlier issued a statement saying it was "very concerned about numerous reports of fraud being carried out by authorities" in favour of the PAM, and called on the interior ministry to "urgently intervene".

PAM spokesman Khalid Adennoun declined to comment but said that his party had filed "50 complaints" of voting irregularities, some concerning the PJD in Tangiers.

An Islamist candidate was attacked and wounded outside a polling station in Rabat, according to local media.

A video shared on social networks also showed a man stuffing a ballot box, leading the PJD to file a complaint, media reported.

Participation was at 43 percent, or roughly 6,750,000 voters, Hassad said during a press conference in the capital Rabat.

Turnouts are typically low in Moroccan elections. During the last vote in 2011, 55 percent of eligible voters failed to cast their ballots. The previous poll, in 2008, saw abstention reach 63 percent.

Fighting corruption

The PJD's first election in 2011 followed months of massive street protests that prompted concessions from the monarchy.

A new constitution transferred some of the king's powers to parliament, at a time when autocratic regimes were falling in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The PJD has won plaudits abroad for pushing an austerity programme that has helped overhaul public finances. The party argued that a second term would allow it to press ahead with social reforms and tackle corruption.

“The PJD like to portray themselves as the clean party, the one that will fight corruption,” said FRANCE 24’s Chris Moore, reporting from Casablanca.

But the party’s task has been complicated by the unstable world economy and a drought this year that has hit Morocco's vital agricultural sector and sent growth plummeting.

It has also faced a string of scandals within its ranks including a drugs bust, a land-grab deal and the suspension of two vice presidents found in a "sexual position" on a beach.

Focus: who are Morocco's Islamists and liberals?

The opposition PAM, formed in 2008 by a close adviser to the king, had hoped to take advantage in the polls.

Headed by Ilyas El Omari, it has poured enormous resources into a campaign criticising the government's economic record as "catastrophic" and pledging to roll back the "Islamisation" of society.

The PAM, which wants to legalise cannabis, also aimed to bring more women into parliament.

A list system and an electoral threshold that has been halved from six to three percent could hand small parties a key role in forming the next government.

The PJD and the PAM have ruled out joining forces in a grand coalition.

Under the 2011 constitution, the king appoints a prime minister from the biggest party in parliament once the election results have been announced.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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