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Morocco gets Muslim Brotherhood PM

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Morocco, with its 35 million people, where 1 in 3 are unemployed and
poverty is widespread, has had multi-party elections since independence
in 1956 without anyone taking much notice. Even Western Saharans get a
taste of democracy from Rabat, however bitter. 

The Arab Spring and public protests, organised by the 20 February youth
movement and the Islamist Al-Adl wa Al-Ihssane, suddenly made genuine
elections an important weapon in the king's arsenal. King Mohammed VI
immediately announced a process of constitutional reform and a promise
to relinquish some of his administrative powers. Following a referendum
in July with 70 per cent turnout and (a suspicious) 98 per cent
approval, the new constitution was ratified in September, and
parliamentary elections held last week.

In the new constitution, the king gives up his power to appoint the
prime minister, agreeing to appoint the leader of the party winning the
most seats in a parliamentary election. This independent PM in turn
would now have the power to appoint senior civil servants, diplomats,
even cabinet members, and the power to dissolve parliament -- in
consultation with the king's ministerial council. 

There were a total of 30 parties in this year's race, the three leaders
being the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, an
eight-party pro-monarchy Coalition for Democracy, and the Koutla
Alliance of Istiqlal, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces and the
Party of Progress and Socialism, headed by incumbent Prime Minister
Abbas El-Fassi, head of the Istiqlal Party.

with family members in Sweden 1971 by The Sun
The Majlis Al-Nuwab (lower house) has 395 seats, 305 elected from party
lists, plus 90 from a national list with two-thirds reserved for women
and the remaining third reserved for men under the age of 40. The
Justice and Development Party won 107 seats, making its leader
Abdelillah Benkirane prime minister designate.

While turnout (45 per cent) was up from the questionable 2007 elections,
critics complain that the current registration system has left up to a
third of eligible voters off the rolls. A remarkable 20 per cent of
ballots were spoiled, indicating a strong protest vote.
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Parallels with Egypt's transition to democracy are strong: both youth
movements strongly criticised their respective elections as
window-dressing, leaving the real power (veto power over legislation,
cabinet appointments, and control of security) in the hands of the king
in the case of Morocco, and the army in the case of Egypt. Many youth
have refused to vote as a result and continue to press their demands for
a real transition of power to a civilian government. Unlike in Egypt,
in Morocco the Islamic Al-Adl wa Al-Ihssane joined the secular youth in
their boycott of the elections.

The distribution of seats now is: Justice and Development Party (107),
Istiqlal Party (60), National rally of independents (52), Authenticity
and Modernity Party (47), Socialist Union of Popular Forces (39),
Popular movement (32), Constitutional Union (23), Party of Progress and
Socialism (18), Labour party (4), other parties (13).

Word is that the Justice and Development Party, which promises to cut
poverty in half and raise the minimum wage by 50 per cent, would govern
in coalition with the leftwing nationalist Koutla bloc.

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games" and "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" are available at (more...)

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