Morocco’s long-standing coalition has suffered a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections for liberal parties seen near the palace, according to preliminary results announced early on Thursday.
The Justice and Development Party (PJD), which led the ruling coalition for a decade, saw its support collapse from 125 seats in the outgoing assembly to just 12, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said during a news conference after Wednesday’s voting. It was far behind its main liberal rivals, the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Autenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), with 97 and 82, respectively, and the center-right party Istiqlal with 78 seats in the assembly with 395 seats. .
The RNI, a junior member of the ruling coalition, is led by billionaire businessman Aziz Akhannouch, described as near the palace, and the main opposition PAM was founded by the current royal adviser, Fouad Ali El Himma, in 2008.
The party Istiqlal (independence), the oldest in Morocco, made a remarkable comeback and added 32 seats. The magnitude of the PJD’s defeat was unexpected, despite the fact that there were no opinion polls banned near election time, the media and analysts had thought that the PJD would still take first place. Swept to power in the wake of the 2011 uprising in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, the PJD had hoped to secure a third term leading a governing coalition.
King Mohammed VI will appoint a prime minister from the party that won the vote to rule the nation at 36 million over the next five years, after Saad-Eddine El Othmani. The final results will be known on Thursday. Turnout was 50.35%, according to the Interior Minister, higher than 43% in the previous legislative votes in 2016, but lower than 53% in the local elections in 2015. But changes to the voting system meant that it was the first time Morocco’s 18 million voters voted in both parliamentary and local elections the same day, in an attempt to increase turnout.
Accusations of vote buying
In 2011, the North African Empire adopted a new constitution that handed over many of the monarch’s powers to parliament and government. Regardless of who holds the elected office, however, important decisions from the initiative of King Mohammed VI continue. On Wednesday night, the PJD claimed “serious irregularities”, including “obscene cash documents” near polling stations and “confusion” on some ballot papers, and some voters found that they were not listed.
However, the Interior Minister said the vote took place “under normal circumstances” apart from some isolated incidents. The short, largely sluggish election campaign, without any major rallies due to the coronavirus, had already been mocked by accusations of vote-buying. PJD and RNI also exchanged heated barbs in the last days before the vote.
Former Prime Minister and PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane attacked the RNI chief, billionaire businessman and agriculture minister Akhannouch, in a fiery Facebook video on Sunday.
“The head of government must be a political figure with integrity who is above suspicion,” he said. Akhannouch responded in an interview on Monday that the attacks were “an acknowledgment of failure” by his opponents.
After the previous election in 2016, the RNI leader got critical ministerial jobs for his party, including finance and finance and industry portfolios. For the first time since the first elections were held in Morocco in 1960, the parties’ share of seats will be calculated on the basis of registered voters, rather than those who actually vote, in an amendment that is seen as favoring smaller parties.
Regardless of the outcome, political parties are expected to adopt a charter for a “new model of development” with a “new generation of reforms and projects” in the coming years, the king recently announced. All parties are expected to register, regardless of who wins the election. The plan’s main goal is to reduce the country’s wealth gap and double economic production per capita by 2035.