Moroccan Liberal Parties Form Coalition Government, Ousting Islamists After Decade of Rule
00:26 GMT 23.09.2021 (Updated: 11:35 GMT 23.11.2022)
After Morocco’s ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) was dealt a stinging defeat in elections earlier this month, several liberal parties have come together to form a coalition government with billionaire Aziz Akhannouch at the helm.
Akhannouch, who was assigned by Moroccan King Mohammed VI to form a government after his party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), won a plurality of seats in parliament, announced the new coalition on Wednesday. It will include the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), another liberal party, and the Istiqlal Party (IP), a center-right nationalist party that supports the monarchy and helped lead the country to independence from France in 1956, but has a long reputation of working with centrist and left-wing parties.
RNI won 102 of the 395 seats in the Moroccan House of Representatives, while PAM took 87 seats and Istiqlal 81 seats. By contrast, the PJD, who had held power for a decade, saw their base of support totally collapse, winning just 13 seats in the lower house. Turnout was reportedly 7% higher than in 2016, with 50.3% of the electorate casting ballots.
"This choice is based on the will of the people, since the three parties managed to convince the voters by obtaining a large majority," Akhannouch said in a speech at RNI headquarters in Rabat, as quoted by Agence France-Presse. Speaking alongside PAM chief Abdellatif Ouahbi and Istiqlal head Nizar Baraka, Akhannouch said their alliance was based on "our programs that largely intersect and adopt the same social and economic priorities.”
Akhannouch promised to create one million jobs, expand health insurance coverage to all Moroccans, increase the salaries of teachers and to provide a pension program for the elderly.
© Jennifer JacquemartVisit of Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, to the European Commission on 23 January 2018
Visit of Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, to the European Commission on 23 January 2018
Istiqlal secretary-general Baraka also said the coalition "will give a new impetus" to reform the ailing economy, which has been "severely marked by the health crisis caused by the pandemic and which "limits the room for manoeuvre.”
However, the PJD has alleged there were “many violations and imbalances witnessed” during the vote, saying after results were announced that they “do not reflect the reality of the political map and the free will of the voters.” According to Reuters, rules changes made it harder for bigger parties to win as many seats as before, necessitating the creation of political coalitions. The PJD will now join the political opposition, alongside several smaller left-wing parties.
Akhannouch, who has previously headed the respective ministries of finance and agriculture, is CEO of the Moroccan conglomerate Akwa Group, which is heavily invested in gas and petroleum. He is worth an estimated $2 billion, making him Africa’s 12th-richest man, according to a count by Forbes.
The new government will take power amid an ongoing crisis with Morocco’s chief regional rival of Algeria, which cut ties with Rabat last month after claiming it was responsible for stirring up dissent and causing wildfires to break out in the country. On Wednesday, Algiers announced it was closing its airspace to Moroccan aircraft.
The government also inherits a war in Western Sahara, where hostilities with the pro-independence Polisario Front reignited last November after 30 years of peace. Claiming to represent a Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in the territory, Polisario accused Rabat of breaking their ceasefire by forcibly dispersing an occupation protest at the Guerguerat border crossing led by Saharawi women. Morocco claims the territory is a historic part of Morocco - a claim the US backed in December as part of a deal orchestrated by the Trump administration to convince Rabat to normalize relations with Israel.
On Tuesday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met with Alexander Ivanko, the United Nations’ newly appointed Special Representative for Western Sahara and head of its peacekeeping mission there, MINURSO. Rabat has proposed an autonomy scheme for Western Sahara, but the UN has promised since 1991 to facilitate an independence referendum in the territory.