King of Morocco appoints businessman Akhannouch as head of government
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Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Friday appointed businessman Aziz Akhannouch to head a new government after his National Rally of Independents (RNI) defeated longtime Islamists in parliamentary elections.
The king appointed Akhannouch “head of government and instructed him to form a new government” following Wednesday’s elections, according to a palace statement.
The RNI won 102 of the 395 seats in parliament, defeating the Moderate Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD), which had led the governing coalition for a decade but won just 13 seats, according to results released by the Ministry of the Interior.
Akhannouch hailed the results as “a victory for democracy”.
The billionaire businessman – worth $ 2 billion according to Forbes – has led the RNI since 2016.
His party is considered close to the palace and has been in every coalition government for the past 23 years, except for a brief period between 2012 and 2013.
After his victory, Akhannouch pledged to improve conditions for Moroccan citizens, where entrenched social inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“The main commitment of the party is to work seriously as long as we have the confidence of the citizens, to improve their daily lives, to realize their aspirations and to regain confidence in their representatives,” he said.
The economy shrank 7.1% in 2020 and the poverty rate climbed to 11.7% during lockdown, the Moroccan statistics institute announced in April.
A recent revision of electoral laws meant that it was the first time that Morocco’s 18 million voters voted in legislative and local elections on the same day, an effort to increase turnout.
According to the Home Secretary, around 50.35% of eligible voters participated, more than the 43% in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Akhannouch’s party also came first in the local elections, winning 9,995 of 31,503 seats, and in the regional ballot with 196 of the 678 positions.
– Negotiations –
Akhannouch said he was ready to start negotiations to form his coalition government.
“The most important thing is to have a cohesive and united majority,” he said in a televised address Friday night.
Under the Moroccan constitutional monarchy, the new administration must be subject to the approval of the king, who reserves the right of veto.
Akhannouch will likely lean on the main opposition, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) – founded by an influential royal adviser – which came second in the legislative elections with 86 seats, as well as the conservative Istiqlal party, which won 81 seats. .
Ministerial bargaining, however, should not include the PJD, which has announced it will revert to its “natural” opposition position.
Brought to power following the 2011 uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the PJD had hoped to secure a third term at the head of a ruling coalition.
Despite the changing of the guard, policy changes are unlikely since major decisions in Morocco still emanate from King Mohammed VI.
The leader of the oldest dynasty in the Arab world has already announced a charter for a “new model of development” with a “new generation of reforms and projects” in the years to come, with the support of political parties.
The main goals of the plan include reducing the wealth gap in Morocco and doubling economic output per capita by 2035.
© 2021 AFP