Morocco’s pro-business National Rally of Independents (RNI) party has won the most seats in the country’s parliamentary elections while the Justice and Development Party (PJD) that headed a ruling coalition for the past decade, suffered a crushing defeat.
RNI, headed by billionnaire businessman Aziz Akhannouch, took 97 of the 395-seat parliament.
Akhannouch, was minister for agriculture and fisheries during his time in the government coalition.
According to Forbes, he is one of the richest people in the Arab world. He runs a business empire involving about 50 companies, mainly in the fields of oil and communications and is also described as close to the palace.
The RNI has used the slogan “you deserve better” during its campaign written in the Moroccan dialect rather than traditional Arabic.
Another liberal party, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), secured 82 seats and the centre-right Istiqlal (PI), the oldest in Morocco, took 78 seats. The PJD took only 12 seats. The results were announced early on Thursday (Sept. 9). Turnout was put at just over 50%, up from 43% in 2016, but lower than the 53% during the 2015 local elections.
In a statement, the PJD accused rivals of buying votes, without naming any or providing details.
The magnitude of the PJD’s defeat was unexpected as, despite the absence of opinion polls that are banned near election time, the media and analysts had believed the long-ruling Islamists would still take first place.
“The general mood, especially among the swing and angry voters, was ‘let’s end the reign of the PJD and try our economic chances with other well-established and pro-king parties like the RNI,’ Mohamed Bouden, head of the Rabat-based Atlas Centre for the Analysis of Political and Institutional Indicators told The National. “The PJD didn’t have a big economic or social achievement it can count on as a rallying point in this election,” he added.
Morocco is a semi-constitutional monarchy where the king holds sweeping powers. King Mohammed VI will pick the prime minister from the party that won the most seats in parliament, who will then form a cabinet and submits it for the king’s approval. The palace has also the last say on appointments concerning key departments including the interior, foreign affairs and defence. It also also sets the economic agenda in the North African kingdom.
With reporting by Reuters, DW, AFP, The National