Morocco opposition leader resigns

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Rabat - Morocco's opposition chief has resigned to take responsibility for the troubles facing his Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), including last year's election defeat, the party said.

Ilyas El Omari's party was beaten by the ruling Islamists in Morocco's legislative polls in October, but more than doubled its number of seats in the new parliament.

The PAM, formed in 2008 by a close adviser to the king, had poured enormous resources into a campaign criticising the government's economic record.

But party detractors accused the PAM of acting on behalf of the royal palace in a bid to weaken the Islamist Justice and Development Party which eventually came first with 125 seats out of 395 in the election.

Since then, PAM fell out of favour with the royal court and its influence on the political scene weakened with another liberal party, RNI, rising as a new buffer against Islamists.

A PAM statement released late on Monday said El Omari "assumes the political responsibility" of the party's decline, particularly after the election.

El Omari is also president of the regional council for the restive north and media reports said his resignation was partly linked to unrest in the neglected Rif region, which has been shaken by weeks of protests and violence this year.

The reports allege that local officials, most of whom are PAM members, have failed to strike a dialogue with demonstrators to appease tensions.

Protests erupted in the region last October after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve a swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.

Demands for justice later snowballed into a wider social movement named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, calling for jobs, development and an end to corruption.

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