Wednesday, December 8

Moroccan King Appoints Billionaire Akhannouch to Head Government Following Election Victory | Morocco

Moroccan King Mohammed VI appointed businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his liberal RNI party defeated long-time Islamists in parliamentary elections.

The king appointed Akhannouch “head of the government and tasked him with forming a new government” after Wednesday’s elections, a palace statement said Friday.

The RNI won 102 of 395 seats in parliament, defeating moderate Islamists in the PJD, who had led the ruling coalition for a decade but only won 13 seats, according to results published by the Interior Ministry.

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 considers itself close to the palace and has been a part of all coalition governments for the past 23 years, except for a brief period between 2012 and 2013.

Following his victory, Akhannouch vowed to improve conditions for the citizens of Morocco, where entrenched social inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The main commitment of the party is to work seriously as long as we enjoy the trust of the public, to improve their day to day, to achieve their aspirations and regain trust in their representatives,” he said.

The economy contracted 7.1% in 2020 and the poverty rate soared to 11.7% during the shutdown, the Moroccan statistics institute said in April.

A recent reform of electoral laws meant that it was the first time that Morocco’s 18 million voters had cast their votes in parliamentary and local elections on the same day, an effort to boost turnout.

Just over half of eligible voters participated, according to the Interior Minister, above 43% in the 2016 legislative elections.

Akhannouch’s party also ranked first in local elections, winning 9,995 out of 31,503 seats, and the regional poll with 196 out of 678 seats.

Akhannouch said he was ready to begin negotiations to form his coalition government.

“The most important thing is to have a coherent and united majority,” he said in a televised speech Friday night.

Under the constitutional monarchy of Morocco, the new administration must be submitted to the approval of the king, who reserves the rights of veto.

Akhannouch will likely be based on the main opposition, PAM, founded by an influential royal adviser, who came second in the parliamentary elections with 86 seats, as well as the conservative Istiqlal party, which won 81 seats.

However, the cabinet horse trade is not expected to include the PJD, which announced that it would switch to its “natural” position as an opposition.

Taken to power in the wake of the 2011 uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the PJD hoped to secure a third term at the helm of a ruling coalition.

Despite the changing of the guard, policy changes are unlikely as major decisions in Morocco still come from King Mohammed VI.

The head of the oldest dynasty in the Arab world has already announced a letter for a “new development model” with a “new generation of reforms and projects” in the coming years, and political parties are expected to adhere.

The main goals of the plan include reducing Morocco’s wealth gap and doubling per capita economic output by 2035.

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