[QODLink]
Africa
Morocco counts votes in landmark polls
Interior ministry says the turnout was 45 per cent, an improvement over the 37 per cent turnout in 2007.
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2011 10:07

Moroccan election officials are counting votes after Friday's first parliamentary election since the king introduced constitutional reforms.

Around 45 per cent of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots, Moroccan Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said late on Friday.

International observers described the turnout as "satisfying" in comparison with 2007, when only 37 per cent of eligible voters went to polls.

Voting stations closed at 7pm (19:00 GMT), with the first provisional official results expected several hours later. Final results are expected to be announced on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Islamist opposition Justice and Development Party (PJD) said it had won the largest number of seats in Morocco's parliamentary election on Friday.

"Based on reports filed by our representatives at polling stations throughout the country, we are the winners," Lahcen Daodi, second in command of the party, told the Reuters news agency.

"We won Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Kenitra, Sale, Beni Mellal and Sidi Ifni to cite just a few."

Government officials could not immediately confirm the party's claim.

Overall 31 parties are vying for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament, 70 more than during the last election in 2007.

Sixty of the overall parliamentary seats are reserved exclusively for women, and 30 seats for young people.

Friday's polls were the first under a new constitution proposed by King Mohammed VI and approved in a July 1 referendum amid popular uprisings in nearby countries.

Opinion polls are not allowed in the North African country but observers said the PJD was likely to win the largest number of seats.

The party's main rival is the Coalition for Democracy, a loose eight-party pro-monarchy bloc that includes Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar's National Rally of Independents party.

Fraud fears

The PJD had expressed concern that the elections could be rigged to keep it out of power, but Italian observer Matteo Mecacci told journalists there was "no indication" of fraud. About 4,000 national and international observers were present to ensure transparency.

The amended constitution gives more powers to parliament, government and the prime minister, who now must be appointed by the king from the party that wins the most assembly seats.

Morocco's king responded to pro-democracy demonstrations this year by amending the constitution and bringing forward parliamentary elections by a year.

Analysts said a high voter turnout would give credibility to the reform of the constitution approved in a July referendum.

Activists, however, still agitated for a boycott saying the reforms were not sufficient.

While the constitutional reform transferred some of the king's powers to parliament and the prime minister, the monarch retains full authority over the military and religious affairs and still appoints ambassadors and diplomats.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.