Is­lamists beat lib­er­als in Morocco elec­tions Both sides make ac­cu­sa­tions of voter fraud

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Morocco’s rul­ing Is­lamists have beaten their lib­eral ri­vals in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions five years after sweep­ing to power fol­low­ing Arab Spring-in­spired protests, re­sults showed yes­ter­day. Prime Min­is­ter Ab­delilah Benki­rane’s Is­lamist Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (PJD) took 125 seats out of 395 in Fri­day’s polls, the in­te­rior min­istry said after all bal­lots were counted. Its main ri­val, the Au­then­tic­ity and Moder­nity Party (PAM), which had cam­paigned against the “Is­lamiza­tion” of Moroc­can so­ci­ety, won 102 seats, the min­istry said.

The PJD’s rise to power in 2011 after King Mo­hammed VI re­lin­quished some of his near­ab­so­lute power fol­low­ing mas­sive street protests brought hopes of change in the North African coun­try. The PJD was the first Is­lamist party to win a na­tional elec­tion, and the first to lead a govern­ment, al­beit with coali­tion part­ners after fail­ing to win an out­right ma­jor­ity. But an­a­lysts say that when it comes to the ma­jor longterm and strate­gic is­sues such as for­eign pol­icy the key de­ci­sion-maker re­mains the king, the scion of a monar­chy that has ruled for 350 years.

Ob­servers from the Coun­cil of Europe who mon­i­tored Fri­day’s vote said it was or­ga­nized “with in­tegrity and full trans­parency”. But the del­e­ga­tion said it “re­grets that the cur­rent vot­ers’ regis­tra­tion sys­tem and the aware­ness cam­paign have not pro­duced a turnout higher than in 2011, par­tic­u­larly among young vot­ers.” It also noted “the sur­pris­ingly high amount of spoilt bal­lot papers” and said there were re­ports of “elec­toral fraud” al­though mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion did not witness any wrong­do­ing.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mo­hamed Has­sad re­jected ac­cu­sa­tions of voter fraud from both sides. He said turnout was 43 per­cent. On Fri­day the PJD and the PAM traded ac­cu­sa­tions of vote ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, while the me­dia re­ported that a video shared on so­cial net­works had showed a man stuff­ing a bal­lot box. Apart from the two main par­ties, Is­tiqlal, which his­tor­i­cally fought for in­de­pen­dence from France, came third with 45 seats. Nine other par­ties also won seats, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Gath­er­ing of In­de­pen­dents which took 37 and the Fed­er­a­tion of the Demo­cratic Left which clinched two.

A state­ment by the PJD said the Is­lamists were “very con­cerned about nu­mer­ous re­ports of fraud be­ing car­ried out by au­thor­i­ties” in favour of the PAM and urged the in­te­rior min­istry to in­ter­vene. PAM spokesman Khalid Aden­noun said his party had filed “50 com­plaints” of vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, some con­cern­ing the PJD in Tang­iers. The head of the Euro­pean ob­servers team, Ian Lid­dell-Grainger, told a news con­fer­ence he was con­fi­dent that the in­te­rior min­istry had done a good job. “I don’t feel that at any stage the min­istry in­ter­fered,” he said.

To make life eas­ier for the il­lit­er­ate, who make up a third of Morocco’s pop­u­la­tion, the 30 par­ties in con­tention were marked on bal­lot papers with sym­bols such as a trac­tor or camel. The PJD clinched 12 more seats in par­lia­ment than in the 2011 elec­tion, which was held after a new con­sti­tu­tion trans­ferred some of the king’s pow­ers to par­lia­ment, at a time when au­to­cratic regimes were fall­ing in Tu­nisia, Egypt and Libya.

The king is ex­pected to ap­point a new prime min­is­ter from the big­gest party in par­lia­ment - a task which could again fall to Benki­rane. Over the past five years his PJD has been weak­ened by ris­ing unem­ploy­ment and plum­met­ing growth while crit­ics said it failed to make good on prom­ises to tackle cor­rup­tion. The PJD also faced a string of scan­dals within its ranks in­clud­ing a drugs bust, a land-grab deal and the suspension of two vice pres­i­dents found in a “sex­ual po­si­tion” on a beach. The PAM, formed in 2008 by a close ad­viser to the king, had hoped to take ad­van­tage in the poll and de­spite com­ing in sec­ond place more than dou­bled the num­ber of its seats in the fu­ture par­lia­ment. Headed by Ilyas El Omari, it has poured enor­mous re­sources into a cam­paign crit­i­ciz­ing the govern­ment’s eco­nomic record as “cat­a­strophic” and pledg­ing to roll back the “Is­lamiza­tion” of so­ci­ety. The PJD and the PAM have ruled out join­ing forces in a grand coali­tion. — AFP

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