Morocco PM fails to resolve political stalemate weeks after polls

Sunday 27/11/2016
Only two political parties have agreed in principle to join his government

CASABLANCA - Morocco’s Prime Min­ister Abdelilah Ben­kirane probably did not expect negotia­tions with other par­ties to form a majority government to be so difficult seven weeks after being tasked by King Mohammed VI to do so after his Islamist party won the most seats in October 7th parliamentary elections.
It took the leader of the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) 34 days to form a government when his party won the most seats in the November 2011 elections. But this time, he said “political manoeu­vring behind his back [has made] the formation of the new majority government a mission impossible”.
Only two political parties have agreed in principle to join his gov­ernment: The Istiqlal Party (PI), which holds 46 seats in the new parliament, and the Party of Pro­gress and Socialism (PPS), which has 12 seats. But the PJD, with 125 seats, still cannot win a majority in the 395-member parliament, push­ing Benkirane to seek more coali­tion partners.
The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), which declared at the beginning of the negotiations its willingness to join Benkirane’s government, is still reluctant to use its 20 seats to end the political vacuum.
The USFP administrative com­mission agreed that the party should continue consultations with Benkirane regarding its par­ticipation in the next government on the basis of shared interests “far from any artificial or cyclical bipo­larisation”.
The USFP did not mention the possibility of an alliance with its tra­ditional ally the Istiqlal Party, which took part with the USFP in five suc­cessive governments between 1998 and 2011, dealing a blow to Ben­kirane’s hope of having the PPS, USFP and PI in his government.
The National Rally of Independ­ents (RNI), which has 37 seats, might be holding the key that Ben­kirane needs to unlock the political impasse, although the two parties, which were allies in the previous government, have recently ex­changed harsh rhetoric.
Benkirane said two weeks ago that he would not yield to the “blackmail” by any party and that he would not make any conces­sions likely to prejudice the dem­ocratic choice after refusing RNI conditions to join his coalition.
After weeks of political chess, the PJD is under increasing pres­sure to reach a compromise with other parties.
The Moroccan Constitution does not stipulate holding new elec­tions if the designated head of gov­ernment fails to gain a majority.
Benkirane has alleged a “putsch” against democracy was taking place. A continued stalemate might prompt the intervention of the king, who has warned that “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”.