PJD takes lead in Moroccan elections, coalition needed to form government

Sunday 09/10/2016
Initial results reflect po­larisation of Moroccan political scene

CASABLANCA - The ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the largest num­ber of seats for the second time in Moroccan legis­lative election polls but still must compete with the secularist Authen­ticity and Modernity Party (PAM) to fashion a coalition government out of a fragmented political scene.

The October 7th vote for the House of Representatives took place amid a climate of stability five years after constitutional reforms introduced by King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan monarch delegated limited but unprecedented powers to the elected prime minister after protests in 2011.

The Interior Ministry announced that the PJD had won 125 seats in the 395-seat legislature, followed by the PAM with 102 seats. Istiqlal — the Independence Party — was next with 46 seats, early returns in­dicated.

Those results show a gain of 18 seats by the PJD but the PAM more than doubled its 2011 election wins of 47 seats. Istiqlal had 60 seats in the previous legislature.

Winners in about 80% of the 395 House seats parliamentary had been determined by early October 8th. Many of the last-determined seats were reserved for women and young people to be chosen from the lists of the winning parties.

The initial results reflect the po­larisation of the Moroccan political scene and the two leading parties have ruled out any coalition be­tween them.

PJD’s comfortable lead makes it likely to return as the primary party in the next government. However, PAM could forge alliances with par­ties that had been in the previous coalition to form a strong opposi­tion, which will make it tougher for the new Islamist-led government to pass legislation.

Lowering the minimum threshold to enter the parliament from 6% to 3% made it possible for most of the 30 parties that competed to claim at least one legislative seat.

Overall turnout was estimated at 43%, which was considered dis­appointing but perhaps a sign of unhappiness among the electorate with the current leading parties.

Moroccan Interior Minister Mo­hamed Hassad downplayed PJD ac­cusations of voter fraud by authori­ties in favour of its liberal rivals.

“The election was transparent and had gone well,” Hassad said.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Ben­kirane, who is the PJD leader, sug­gested that the party would accept the result, telling supporters in Rabat: “Today is a day of joy for all Moroccans because it’s a day where democracy won.”

Morocco’s Islamists forged a coa­lition government with liberals, conservatives and communists fol­lowing 2011’s election. The outgoing government is credited with imple­menting a number of reforms, such as the overhaul of state pension funds by raising workers’ contribu­tions and retirement age to 63 by 2022 despite trade unions’ strong opposition.

The Benkirane-led government also continued the trend of higher foreign direct investment (FDI). Morocco has seen its FDI rise more than 11% since 2010. The vigilance of security institutions, which foiled many terror attacks in recent years, also helped boost the climate of stability.

However, the Islamist party, which has been shaken recently by scandals, failed to deliver on its promise to curb unemployment and fight corruption, which were among pledges that drew Moroccans to vote for them in 2011.