Elections in Morocco: rout for the Islamists, large victory for the liberals

The Islamist PJD party, at the head of the Moroccan government for a decade, suffered a spectacular rout, in favor of liberal parties considered close to the royal palace, during the legislative elections Wednesday in the Maghreb kingdom.

the Justice and Development Party (PJD, moderate Islamist) collapsed, dropping from 125 seats in the outgoing assembly to 12, said Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit.

It comes far behind its main rivals, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), both liberal in tendency, and the Istiqlal Party (center-right), with respectively 97, 82 and 78 (out of 395 deputies).

The RNI, which belongs to the government coalition, is headed by a wealthy businessman, Aziz Akhannouch, described as close to the palace.

The oldest party in Morocco, the center-right Istiqlal (Independence) party is making a remarkable comeback with a gain of 32 seats.

The extent of the defeatIslamists was unexpected as, despite the lack of polls, media and analysts believed the PJD would still play the top spots and run for a third consecutive term as head of government.

Participation on the rise

It will be up to King Mohammed VI to appoint a head of government, from the party that won the legislative ballot, who will be responsible for forming an executive for a five-year term. He will succeed the secretary general of the PJD, Saad-Eddine El Othmani.

The final results should be known on Thursday.

The participation rate reached 50.35% at the national level, according to the latest figure given by the Minister of the Interior. It is up compared to the legislative elections of 2016. At the time it had capped at 43%.

Turnout was high in the southern regions which encompass the part of the disputed territory of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco.

In 2011, Morocco set up a new constitution granting wide prerogatives to Parliament and the government. However, decisions and orientations in key sectors continue to emanate from initiatives of King Mohammed VI.

Earlier today, the Islamists had reported “serious irregularities”, including “the obscene distribution of money” near polling stations and “confusion” on certain electoral lists, citizens not finding their name there.

The voting operations took place “under normal circumstances”, assured the Minister of the Interior, except “isolated cases”.

End of tense campaign

The end of the short electoral campaign, marked by the absence of major political meetings because of Covid-19, had already been poisoned by voice buying charges.

A lively controversy has also opposed the PJD to the RNI in recent days.

The former head of government and former secretary general of the PJD Abdelilah Benkirane had fired red balls on the head of the RNI Aziz Akhannouch, judging that it was necessary “a politician with integrity” to the presidency of the government.

Minister of Agriculture since 2007, Mr. Akhannouch retorted that the Islamists’ criticisms were “an admission of failure” and “were only intended to sow discord”.

The minister, at the head of one of the biggest fortunes in the country, has already played a key role in the previous government, controlling important portfolios such as Economy and Finance or Industry.

New reforms

It is the first time since the first elections in Morocco were held in 1960 that the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives was calculated on the basis of the number of registered voters and not of the voters.

This new calculation method should favor small parties to the detriment of large parties. But only the PJD had opposed it, considering itself already “wronged”.

Electoral competition was characterized by the absence of a well-defined polarization on political choices.

After the ballot, political parties will be invited to adopt “a pact” resulting from a “new development model”, which foreshadows a “new generation of reforms and projects”, as Mohammed VI recently promised.


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