By Siham Ali
Morocco’s moderate Islamist party won a parliamentary election for the first time, preliminary results showed Saturday (November 26th).
The Justice and Development Party (PJD) captured 80 of the 395 seats in Friday’s national poll, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui told a news conference on Saturday.
When the final results are tallied, that number could top 100, analysts predict.
PJD Secretary-General Abdellah Benkirane expressed his delight but said that it was too early to comment on any potential alliances, as the King has not yet appointed a prime minister. Negotiations will begin once this has happened.
“We thank the Moroccans who voted for the PJD and we can only be satisfied,” Benkirane said.
He added that one of his goals was to develop relations with the West.
Interior Minister Cherkaoui said that the government endeavoured to ensure that the elections went smoothly, including the handling of complaints, which numbered 489. Of these, 302 appeared in the national press.
Istiqlal came second in the elections with 45 seats, and RNI was third with 38 seats, followed by the PAM with 33. The USFP was fifth with 29, while the People’s Movement only managed to win 22 seats and the PPS won just 11 seats.
RNI President Salah Eddine Mezouar, who was hoping to become prime minister, said that his party and his G8 allies would co-ordinate their efforts in opposition to the PJD.
Still, he said, the results represent a victory for the democratic process.
For his part, Abdelilah Benkirane has not ruled out an alliance with the RNI.
Politicians were largely satisfied with the high turnout, which was 45.4 per cent, as compared with 37 per cent in 2007. Communication Minster and government spokesman Khalid Nacir said that the voter turnout marked a substantial improvement which should be built on in the coming years.
Omar Balafrej, the president of the Abderrahim Bouabid Foundation, however, says that 45 per cent represents just 6 million voters, barely 400,000 more than in 2007.
“Is it acceptable to have 29% of the voters who are of voting age? This is a matter of legitimacy that has not been resolved. Unfortunately, the door was closed to the young people in the February 20th Movement, which wants to change things…. Their involvement would have breathed new life into our political system,” he asserted.
The Parliament of the Council of Europe, which observed the elections, hailed Morocco’s efforts. During a press briefing on November 26th in Rabat, the official observers said that the poll took place in a calm atmosphere, with voters being able to choose freely between various parties.