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Morocco Elections: Coalition Update

morocco woman votingRabat, Morocco --- December 5 ... On November 30, King Mohammed VI formally appointed Abdelilah Benkirane, the leader of the winning Justice and Development Party, as Morocco's next Prime Minister in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution.

The King noted that he was following the new constitutional guidelines requiring the Monarch to choose a Prime Minister from the party which won the largest number of seats in the Parliament. Benkirane reiterated his fealty to the throne and stressed his commitment to follow the Constitution and keep Morocco online with the King's reforms process.

On December 1, after meeting with the current Prime Minister Abbas Fassi, Benkirane sought to reassure Morocco's international allies that the country will stay the course. He stated that "it is unthinkable to dismantle Morocco's historic alliances with the West, which remain based on many mutual interests." Benkirane further specified that "Morocco's relationships with France, Spain, Britain and the United States will not change."

In early December, Benkirane and the PJD leadership focused their coalition negotiations on establishing an even more centrist-mainstream a government that would better represent the Moroccan grassroots. With the Koutla alliance faltering over internal disagreements, senior negotiators for the Justice and Development Party and other would-be coalition partner parties considered reducing the future coalition's dependence on leftist elements and instead focus on the mainstream bulwarks of Morocco's society and political establishment as the PJD's primary coalition partners.

The Justice and Development Party leaders reached out to the mainstream-royalist National Rally for Independents with its 52 seats (13%) as the bulwark of centrist policies. Meanwhile coalition negotiations continued with the venerable Independence Party - Istiklal (60 seats - 15%) and the Popular Movement (32 seats - 8%) that is predominantly Amazigh/Berber.

Consequently, over the weekend, the radical-leftist Progress and Socialism Party opted to rethink a role in the coalition despite the Koutla alliance agreement. On December 4, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) - another Koutla party - also decided not to participate in a coalition.

"The USFP is now part of the opposition, following a decision made Sunday by its national council," announced Driss Lachgar of the party's political bureau. Ultimately, with the Independence Party, the National Rally for Independents, and the Popular Movement as the primary coalition partners of the Justice and Development Party - Benkirane will be in position to consolidate an extremely solid centrist-mainstream coalition of 251 seats (63%) that will enshrine confidence in the continuance of Morocco's unique character, way of life and policies.

The trial and tribulations of Morocco's coalition-building process is far from over. The political reforms process of the last five years - that culminated in the ratification and adoption of the new Constitution - find the entire parliamentary-political establishment unprepared for some of the inevitable challenges of coalition-building negotiations.

As the leaders of Morocco's main parties sit down to begin the inevitable coalition negotiations - there will be bumps merely because of inexperience that will, in turn, prolong and complicate the negotiations process. However, given the unity of the mind about the nation's most burning challenges and differences mainly on the modalities for their resolution - a viable mainstream-centrist coalition will ultimately emerge.

Thus, after some rancorous coalition negotiations and substantive meaningful compromises - Morocco will settle for stable coalition government focusing on providing good governance and resolving socio-economic challenges without rocking the country's unique and endearing social order characterized by diversity, pragmatism and moderation.

There should be no doubt that Morocco is on the threshold of profound socio-political and economic transformation. The public at large has great expectations from the new government and the new Constitution, and will give the forthcoming coalition government a grace period to prove itself. Delivering discernible success expeditiously - that is, within a realistic time-frame - will be the only yardstick by which the Benkirane government will be judged by the public and future voters.

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