Islamists beat liberals in Morocco elections

Morocco's ruling Islamists have beaten their liberal rivals in parliamentary elections five years after sweeping to power following Arab Spring-inspired protests, results showed on Saturday.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 08, 2016, 23:03 PM IST

Rabat: Morocco's ruling Islamists have beaten their liberal rivals in parliamentary elections five years after sweeping to power following Arab Spring-inspired protests, results showed on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) took 125 seats out of 395 in yesterday's polls, the interior ministry said after all ballots were counted.

Its main rival, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which had campaigned against the "Islamisation" of Moroccan society, won 102 seats, the ministry said.

The PJD's rise to power in 2011 after King Mohammed VI relinquished some of his near-absolute power following massive street protests brought hopes of change in the North African country.

The PJD was the first Islamist party to win a national election, and the first to lead a government, albeit with coalition partners after failing to win an outright majority.

But analysts say that when it comes to the major long-term and strategic issues such as foreign policy the key decision-maker remains the king, the scion of a monarchy that has ruled for 350 years.

Observers from the Council of Europe who monitored yesterday's vote said it was organised "with integrity and full transparency".

But the delegation said it "regrets that the current voters' registration system and the awareness campaign have not produced a turnout higher than in 2011, particularly among young voters."

It also noted "the surprisingly high amount of spoilt ballot papers" and said there were reports of "electoral fraud" although members of the delegation did not witness any wrongdoing.

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad rejected accusations of voter fraud from both sides. He said turnout was 43 percent.

Yesterday the PJD and the PAM traded accusations of vote irregularities, while the media reported that a video shared on social networks had showed a man stuffing a ballot box.

Apart from the two main parties, Istiqlal, which historically fought for independence from France, came third with 45 seats.

Nine other parties also won seats, including the National Gathering of Independents which took 37 and the Federation of the Democratic Left which clinched two.

A statement by the PJD said the Islamists were "very concerned about numerous reports of fraud being carried out by authorities" in favour of the PAM and urged the interior ministry to intervene.

PAM spokesman Khalid Adennoun said his party had filed "50 complaints" of voting irregularities, some concerning the PJD in Tangiers.

The head of the European observers team, Ian Liddell-Grainger, told a news conference he was confident that the interior ministry had done a good job.