(Bloomberg) -- A business-friendly party close to Morocco’s royal palace looks set to win the kingdom’s parliamentary election, as the long-dominant Islamists suffered a crushing blow.
Results for 96% of the 395 seats in the assembly that were up for grabs in Wednesday’s election have been called and the Independents National Rally (RNI) have won 97 seats, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said. Their closest contender, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) won 82 seats, paving the way for King Mohammed VI to appoint a new prime minister from RNI.
Both parties are seen as close to the monarch. The RNI was founded by a brother-in-law of his father, late King Hassan II, and PAM by Fouad Ali El Himma, an advisor and former schoolmate of King Mohammed VI.
Current Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) crashed beyond even the most pessimistic expectations, dropping to 12 seats from 125 seats it had won in the 2016 elections. Despite being the largest party over the past decade, they were criticized for failing to address inequalities, tackle corruption and revive jobs in an economy that shrank 6% last year. The king meanwhile received praise for his handling of the pandemic and for a plan to rebuild.
A parliamentary makeover that shunts aside the Islamists could give a monarch with already extensive powers a compliant legislature to drive home his agenda.
RNI, which improved significantly from the 37 seats they won in the last polls, has been a coalition partner of the PJD and is led by Aziz Akhannouch, the country’s longtime agriculture and fisheries minister and one of the kingdom’s wealthiest businessmen.
Under Moroccan law, no party can win more than 50% of the seats, making coalitions inevitable.
In a sign of the sweeping voter anger over the 10-year-rule of the Islamists, even the old guard Istiqlal party -- a nationalist group that was a near-permanent fixture until a decade ago, raised its numbers in the assembly. The party won 78 seats compared to 46 last time around.
The voter turnout was 50.3% versus 42% in 2016, Laftit said.
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