Government formation still in limbo a month after Morocco polls
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.