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Morocco: PM Benkirane forms cabinet

Source : | 16 February 2012 |  News, Politics | 2497 views

The Arab Spring led to major victories for Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt. Morocco avoided much of that turmoil through gradual reforms.


After winning the largest number of seats (107out of 395) in the 25 November parliamentary elections, the moderate Islamist Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD) now controls the new coalition government.

Its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, formed a 30-strong cabinet after more than a month of wrangling with partners Istiqlal, a centre-right grouping that won 60 seats, as well as the Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme that took 18 seats.

The PJD named 11 ministers, including foreign affairs minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani and justice minister Mustafa Ramid.

Istiqlal managed to get up-and-coming former infrastructure minister Karim Ghellab elected as speaker of parliament, which will rejuvenate proceedings. There is just one woman in the cabinet, the PJD’s Bassima Hakkaoui, who will control the ministry of solidarity and the family.

Morocco avoided the [LINK=/index.php/201102215137004/columns/shockwaves-across-north-africa-5137004.html]upheavals that its North African cousins underwent in 2011[/LINK]. A series of street protests were damped down by the  government and led to a light revision of the constitution.

It may turn out that gradual change is just as effective over the long run. Though the kissing of King Mohammed VI’s hand when the cabinet is sworn in is by no means mandatory, few fail to do so.

However, following Benkirane’s lead, none of the PJD ministers did. The relationship between parliament and palace is one to watch over future weeks.

Observers wondered at the rehabilitation of Fouad El Himma, a former royal aide who left to help found the Parti Authenticité et Modernité, a progressive party that shook up the political scene in 2007 and won 47 seats in November 2011.

The 20 February protest movement widely denounced El Himmaas corrupt, and this was the closest activists got to attacking the king himself, eventually leading to El Himma stepping down.

King Mohammed VI has responded by reappointing him as a royal aide and making him responsible for relations with parliament. Modelling themselves on Turkey’s AKP, the PJD will be closely watched for signs of bringing ‘too much’ Islam into the daily politics ofMorocco.

Such fears miss a broader dynamic, the positive effect that mainstream politics is having on Islamist parties. Themore extreme Al Adl Wal Ihsane, founded by Islamist preacher Cheikh Abdessalam Yassine, is currently banned as a party but is now making overtures to enter the democratic process.

Though it was a keen initiator of marches and demonstrations earlier in 2011, it has now officially left the 20 February movement and has held talks with the PJD.

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