Morocco’s Islamist opposition party has claimed victory in the country’s first parliamentary election since the king introduced constitutional reforms intended to dampen the threat of Arab Spring-style protests.
Official results are due to be released on later on Saturday, but Lahcen Daodi, the head of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), said that it believed it had won, based on reports filed by its own representatives at polling stations.
Daoudi said PJD had won more than 100 of 395 seats in parliament, describing the polls as a “historic turning point”.
“The figures which we have allow us to say that we will have over 100 seats,” he said.
Early projections by Morocco’s state news agency said PJD had won 40 per cent of the vote.
The party’s main rival is the Coalition for Democracy, a loose eight-party pro-monarchy bloc.
Abbas Al Fassi, Morocco’s prime minister, said on Saturday he was ready to enter into a coalition with the PJD.
“Yes, yes. The PJD’s victory is a victory for democracy,” Al Fassi said in answer to a reporter’s question on whether his Istiqlal party was willing to form a coalition with the PJD.
If PJD’s claimed victory is confirmed, it would be the second Islamist party elected to govern a North African country since the start of the region’s Arab Spring uprisings, following Tunisia.
Around 45 per cent of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots on Friday. International observers described the turnout as “satisfying” in comparison with 2007, when only 37 per cent of eligible voters went to polls.
Thirty-one 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.
The amended constitution, approved in a July 1 referendum, 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.
The monarch, however, retains full authority over the military and religious affairs; and still appoints ambassadors and diplomats.