King of Morocco ousts PM over post-election deadlock

Royalist supporters reluctant to share power with Islamist party as Mohammed plans replacement for Abdelilah Benkirane.

FILE PHOTO: Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and secretary-general of PJD waves during a party meeting in Rabat
Benkirane is head of the PJD party that won last year's parliamentary election, but lacked a majority vote [Reuters]

The king of Morocco is to appoint a new prime minister after five months of talks on forming a coalition government ended in failure, the royal palace has announced.

King Mohammed VI took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said on Wednesday.

King Mohammed is expected to name another member of the Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD) to replace Abdelilah Benkirane.

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Benkirane had been reappointed after the PJD, which first came to power in 2011, increased its share of the vote in October elections, maintaining its position as the biggest party.

Under Morocco’s election law no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king still holds ultimate power.

But the PJD failed to form a majority despite five months of intense negotiations – the longest time Morocco has been without a government in its recent history.

Benkirane proposed to rebuild his outgoing coalition, an alliance comprising a range of parties including other Islamists, liberals and ex-communists.

However, he faced opposition from Aziz Akhannouch – leader of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and a billionaire former agriculture minister who critics say is close to the king – and the resulting power struggle quickly led to political impasse.

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Royalist supporters have been reluctant to share power with Islamists since Mohammed ceded some powers in 2011 to ease protests.

The palace says the king maintains the equal distance from all parties and dismisses claims of royal interference.

The PJD was the first Islamist party to win an election in Morocco and the first to lead a government after Mohammed – whose family has ruled Morocco since the early 1600s – gave up some of his power when thousands took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations inspired by the wave of uprisings across the Arab world.

Source: News Agencies