Morocco’s ruling Islamists have taken the lead in the country’s parliamentary elections, provisional results showed Saturday. Some 43 percent of the North African kingdom’s 15.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots in Friday’s parliamentary vote, which was only the second election since constitutional reforms were instated to quell the street protests that erupted during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
With 90 percent of the ballots counted, the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has won 99 seats in the 395-strong House of Representatives, Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad said early Saturday.
That gives it a clear edge over its liberal rivals in the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which is closer to the powerful monarchy and trailed with 80 seats.
The conservative Istiqlal (Independence) Party has come in third with 31 seats, Hassad told reporters. This means no party will win a clear majority, setting the stage for a ruling coalition. So far the PJD’s signature achievement is passage of a controversial reform of the retirement system while following a relatively liberal economic policy.
The opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), formed in 2008 by a royal adviser, trailed in second place with 80 seats. It has poured enormous resources into a campaign criticizing the government’s economic record as “catastrophic” and pledged to roll back the “Islamization” of society and legalize cannabis.
Some parties have fielded ultra-conservative Salafists, in a sign that Islamists are becoming a feature of Moroccan politics.
The government said the vote was fair, though there have been allegations of irregularities from all sides. PAM spokesman Khalid Adennoun told reporters his party had filed “50 complaints” of voting irregularities in the port city of Tangiers.
Local media also reported a violent incident in which an Islamist candidate was attacked and wounded outside a polling station in the capital Rabat.
The religious PJD came to power in 2011, months after massive street protests prompted concessions from Morocco’s monarchy. A new constitution transferred some of the king’s powers to the elected parliament, at a time when autocratic regimes were falling in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s PJD won the 2011 election, and he was appointed premier by the king. In five years he has pushed economic reforms to reduce the deficit and tackle subsidies
jar/jlw (AFP, dpa)