Morocco faces political impasse after talks collapse

2017-01-10 19:01
Morocco flag. (iStock)

Morocco flag. (iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Rabat - Morocco is facing an unprecedented political deadlock after the Islamist prime minister broke off talks on forming a coalition government following three months of fruitless effort.

The impasse - apparently rooted in a power struggle between the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and figures close to the royal palace - threatens to provoke a political crisis and possibly even new elections.

King Mohammed VI tasked Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane with forming a new government after his PJD won the most seats in October elections.

The PJD rose to power after the king relinquished some of his near-absolute power following Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011, with Benkirane heading a previous coalition government for five years.

The PJD faced a serious challenge from the secularist Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) in October's vote, which campaigned against the "Islamisation" of Moroccan society and came a strong second.

Since the vote Benkirane has been haggling to rebuild his coalition, which had brought together a range of parties including other Islamists, liberals and ex-Communists.

But he has proven unable to secure the 198 of 395 seats needed for a majority and in a surprise statement on Sunday said he was breaking off talks with two parties, the centre-right National Rally of Independence (RNI) and the Popular Movement (MP).

Analysts say the talks have become a power struggle between Benkirane and RNI chief Aziz Akhannouch, a billionaire outgoing agricultural minister who is close to the king.

"Akhannouch's objective seems clear: to deprive Benkirane of oxygen," political analyst Mohamed Ennaji said.

Mohammed Madani, another political analyst and law professor in Rabat, said the failure of the coalition talks reflects a wider power struggle.

"Akhannouch is not acting alone, he is the spokesperson for the centre of power," Madani said. "It's about showing that what counts is not electoral success but closeness to the palace."

In the king's hands? 

The PJD was the first Islamist party to win an election in Morocco and the first to lead a government, raising concerns among many in a country that has traditionally been among the more secular of Arab nations.

Its 2011 win came after the king - whose family claims descent from Islam's Prophet Mohammed and has ruled Morocco since the early 1600s - gave up some of his power after thousands took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations inspired by the wave of uprisings across the Arab world.

Among the reforms were a requirement for the king to nominate a prime minister from the party that won the most seats in Morocco's parliament.

The PJD struggled in power to tackle rising unemployment and fulfil promises to crack down on corruption.

Social tensions since the election have seen a wave of demonstrations in the Rif, an ethnically Berber region in Morocco's north.

Thousands have taken to the streets in protests over the death of a 31-year-old fish seller in the city of Al-Hoceima, Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed in a rubbish truck as he reportedly tried to protest against authorities seizing and destroying his wares.

There have been no signs of progress since the collapse of the coalition talks on Sunday.

A meeting of the outgoing cabinet due to take place on Monday was postponed without official comment.

Local media reported it could take place on Tuesday.

Madani said Benkirane's suspension of the talks appeared to be a "change in tactics" to "bring the problem to a higher level".

The palace says it stands above the country's politics but analysts say it may have no choice but to intervene.

"The constitution is silent on the question of a prime minister-designate being unable to form a majority. It will fall then to the king to interpret the constitution," said Abdellah Tourabi, a Moroccan political researcher.

A decision to call fresh elections is possible, but unlikely, he said.

The head of another party could be asked to form a government instead "but this will cause political tensions" with the PJD.

"Another possibility is a fresh intervention from the king to ask for negotiations to resume, still under Benkirane," Tourabi said.

Read more on:    king mohammed vi  |  morocco  |  north africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


How to open a beer bottle without an opener

Do the right thing and never be thirsty again…


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.