Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

New Moroccan party leads in local elections | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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RABAT, (Reuters) – A new Moroccan political party grouping King Mohammed’s staunchest supporters has won most seats in local elections, preliminary official results showed on Saturday.

With more than 80 percent of seats counted, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) had 4,854 seats, ahead of the governing Istiqlal (Independence) party with 4,246, according to figures from the Interior Ministry carried by the state news agency MAP.

PAM, created last year by lawmakers from five parties, has positioned itself as an alternative to both opposition Islamists and Istiqlal, and has sought to combat voter apathy with promises to follow through on policy commitments.

It is the brainchild of Fouad Ali Himma, a former deputy interior minister and close friend of the king, who has won strong backing at home and abroad for reforms to combat poverty, improve the business climate and bolster women’s rights. The vote was the first major test for the governing coalition of conservatives and socialists since the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) scored its best result in 2007 legislative elections.

Widespread disillusionment and cynicism towards traditional parties may have played into the PJD’s hands, and the authorities were hoping for a big turnout on Friday.

Provisional figures put the turnout at 51 percent, below the 54 percent recorded in 2003 local elections.

Critics of Istiqlal Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi say his administration lacks energy and direction. The government lost its parliamentary majority last month when PAM withdrew support.

The PJD were sixth with 1,135 seats. It fielded far fewer candidates than PAM and Istiqlal and was focusing its campaign on key towns including Fez, Sale and Casablanca.

PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane said on Friday he expected a good result, but the party lacks a strong support base in rural areas where family and tribal links often ensure victory for local dignitaries.

A proportional voting system makes it almost impossible for a single party to gain outright control of one town and control of local councils often depends on deals between parties after the vote.

Final provisional results would be released by the interior ministry later on Saturday, officials said.