Government formation still in limbo a month after Morocco polls

Sunday 13/11/2016
Moroccan Prime Minister and leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, known as the PJD, Abdelilah Benkirane talks to the media, in Rabat, last October.

Casablanca - Moroccan Prime Min­ister Abdelilah Ben­kirane is struggling to form a government one month after his Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the plurality of seats in elections that polarised the North African country.

The PJD claimed 125 of the 395 seats in parliament in an early Octo­ber election. The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) claimed 102 seats.

Without a legislative major­ity needed to form a government alone, the PJD looked to form a coa­lition. Benkirane got the backing of the Istiqlal Party (46 seats) and PJD’s staunch ally, the Party of Pro­gress and Socialism (12 seats) but he is short of the total needed to form a government.

The Socialist Union of Popu­lar Forces (USFP) and the Popular Movement agreed to join Ben­kirane’s coalition but then with­drew from negotiations, forcing the Islamist prime minister to seek an alliance with the National Rally of Independents (RNI).

RNI Secretary-General Aziz Akhannouch, who took over the party leadership from former For­eign minister Salaheddine Mezouar, set conditions that need to be met before it would agree to join a gov­ernment.

RNI, which won 37 seats, released a communiqué denouncing attacks from pro-PJD media on it and its leader.

According to reports of media close to the PJD, Akhannouch re­quired during meeting with Ben­kirane as conditions for joining the government an increase in fuel pric­es, reconsideration of the amount of assistance given to the poor and for the Istiqlal party to be kept out of the government coalition.

RNI said leaks about a suppos­edly closed meeting with Benkirane were manipulated by “Benkirane or his confidants”. RNI, which was part of the former government, de­nied that its preconditions were in­tended to harm public interests.

A source close to Akhannouch told the Assabah newspaper the RNI leader was disappointed with this poor start in relations between Benkirane and his party, as they had agreed on the necessary confidenti­ality of exchanges.

“They have also agreed that the supreme interest of the nation re­quires an end to public clashes that almost made the former govern­ment fall several times,” said the source.

Benkirane said he would go to the Moroccan king to admit failure if he cannot form a government. King Mohammed VI could then call for the formation of an interim gov­ernment of national unity, pending new elections.

In a speech November 6th, King Mohammed VI called for a seri­ous, responsible government and warned that he would not toler­ate “any attempts to deviate” from what is urgently needed.

“The future cabinet should not be the result of calculations aimed at fulfilling political parties’ wishes, based on electoral arithmetic, as if there were spoils to be shared out,” he said.

“A government should have a clear programme and well-defined priorities, both for home and for­eign affairs, particularly as far as Af­rica is concerned. The government should have the ability to deal with the difficulties inherited from past years, with respect to Morocco’s ob­ligations towards its partners.

“The government should involve an efficient, coherent structuring ef­fort, consonant with programmes and priorities. It also requires quali­fied, skilled resources with specific sectoral attributions.”

Negotiations to form a majority government come at a time when Moroccans are protesting the “hu­miliation” following the accidental crushing of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in a rubbish truck October 28th when he was trying to stop the sei­zure and destruction of his illegally caught swordfish in the northern city of Al Hoceima.

Protests were also staged by teachers against the Morocco’s pro­ject of recruiting 11,000 teachers on fixed-term contract.