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Morocco unveils new cabinet
Seven women were brought in as ministers or deputy ministers.
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2007 19:27 GMT

King Mohammed has urged the new cabinet to focus on social and economic reform [AFP]


 


Morocco has unveiled a five-party coalition government, changing the finance and foreign ministers but keeping the key interior and religious affairs ministers unchanged.
 
The cabinet led by Abbas El Fassi, the prime minister, was sworn into office before King Mohammed in a ceremony at the royal palace in Rabat on Monday.
Seven women were brought in as ministers or deputy ministers, in line with the king's commitment to cautious social reforms.
 
The previous cabinet contained two female deputy ministers.

Salah Eddine Mezouar, the former industry minister, was named finance chief and Taieb Fassi al-Fihri, the ex-deputy foreign minister, was promoted to the North African country's foreign minister.

 

Chakib Benmoussa remains interior minister while Aziz Akhennouch, businessman and elected Agadir province chief, was brought in as agriculture minister charged with reforming an antiquated sector that is Morocco's biggest employer.

   

Al-Istiqlal party won the September 7 legislative elections in a surprise victory and El Fassi, its leader, was named prime minister on September 19 by the king, replacing Driss Jettou.

 

Challenges

  

Al-Istiqlal came out on top by taking 52 seats out of 325 in the Chamber of Representatives.

 

El Fassi's al-Istiqlal party won 52 seats out
of 325 in the September polls [AFP]

Analysts said the new cabinet faced an uphill struggle to win back popular support after a record low turnout of 37 per cent in the September 7 polls underlined mistrust of politicians among most Moroccans.

 

The cabinet faces social woes ranging from mass poverty and unemployment and the need for urgent reforms of education and agriculture, analysts said.

   

Reforms by the outgoing administration have bolstered economic growth but it leaves a widening trade deficit, popular discontent at rising living costs and an increase in activity by Islamic extremists.

 

King Mohammed, who enjoys paramount powers ranging from naming the prime minister to vetoing laws passed by the parliament, has urged the new cabinet to focus on social and economic reform.

   

"A new policy for agriculture, energy and water must be adopted and new urban and rural development plans must be drawn up," the king told parliament last week.

        

El Fassi has not yet detailed his government's policies, focusing instead on the tricky negotiations with party leaders over the cabinet line-up, with each group striving to win the most ministries and influence in the government.

Source:
Agencies
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