By Nidal Chebbak
Fez – The wind of change that started blowing in the Arab streets since the beginning of the year has greatly benefited Morocco’s moderate Islamists, who emerged as the winners of the legislative elections held on Friday 25 November.
The final results released on Sunday night by the Ministry of the Interior confirmed what analysts consider as “historic win” for the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), as it won 107 seats, which, in accordance with the provisions of the new constitution approved last July, allows it to head the upcoming government. The center right Istiqlal, a potential ally for the PJD, was placed second with 60 seats up from 52 seats in 2007.
In earlier statements right after the announcement of the provisional results of the parliamentary elections, Secretary General of the PJD, Abdelillah Benkirane, told the press, that his party will uphold Morocco’s longstanding relations with the US and the EU. “What we claim, today, is to work together, in a democratic way, within the framework of balanced ties,” he said.
He assured Moroccans that the PJD will not interfere in their daily lives. He stressed in a statement carried by the German news agency DPA, that: “despite its Islamic leanings, the Justice and Development Party will not interfere in the affairs of Moroccans,” referring to the strategy of the party to avoid going into the issues that stir controversy such as consumption of alcohol or the wearing of headscarf.
Mr Benkirane said in a statement carried by AFP, Western nations, on whose investment and tourism the country relies heavily, had no reason to fear a PJD-led government. “With the PJD there will never be surprises,” he said.
“We are going to develop relations with the West.”
He also emphasized the need for Morocco to further reinforce relations with Arab, African and Muslim countries.
The victory for Morocco of the PJD came a month after Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda was elected in landslide victory. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is also expected to do well in an election that will take place on Monday.
The PJD will have to form a coalition with other parties in order to put in place a new government.
In this regard, Morocco’s current Prime Minister, Abbas Al Fassi, said on Saturday his nationalist Istiqlal party was ready to enter into a coalition with the PJD party.
“The PJD’s victory is a victory for democracy,” he told Reuters.
In an interview with the TV station 2M, Abdelilah Benkirane said that his party “is ready to form coalitions with the parties of the Koutla” (an alliance composed of the Independence Party, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces and the Progress and Socialism Party). He added that “the party remains open to other political parties, save for one political party with which we had big differences”, in a reference to the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM).
The polls “took place under normal conditions and a under a climate of mobilization marked by fair competition and respect of electoral laws”, Cherkaoui said in a press briefing after the elections.
Forty-five percent of the 13.4 million eligible voters participated in these elections to choose the 395-seat parliament. For the first time in Morocco’s history, 60 seats were offered to women and 30 seats to young candidates under the age of 40.
In the last legislative elections held in September 20o7, voter turnout did not exceed 37%, the lowest voter participation in Morocco’s history. In the first legislative elections held after the enthronement of King Mohammed VI, voter turnout reached 51, 6 %. During the last legislative held under the rule of the late Hassan II, voter turnout reached 58, 3%.
Thirty one parties were competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament, 70 more than during the last election in 2007.
These polls were overseen by 4,000 observers representing international and national bodies.
The legislative elections are an “important step” in the democratic process of reform in Morocco, said the European Union (EU), in a statement carried by the Maghreb Arab Press.
“Friday’s parliamentary elections are an important step in the on-going process of democratic reform in Morocco initiated by the King to respond to the demands and aspirations of the Moroccan people,” said a co-signed statement by Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, and Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy.
The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, expressed her congratulations to the Moroccan people for the success of the Friday Elections.
Clinton said in a statement that “I congratulate the Moroccan people on the successful completion of Friday’s parliamentary elections.”
“The hard work of building democracy does not end when the votes are tallied and the winners announced,” She added.
The final results of the elections are as follows:
The Justice and Development Party (PJD): 107 seats.
Independence Party (PI): 60 seats.
National Rally for Independents (RNI): 52 seats.
Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM): 47 seats.
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP): 39 seats.
Popular Movement (MP): 32 seats.
Constitutional Union (UC): 23 seats.
Progress and Socialism Party (PPS): 18 seats.
Labor Party (PT): 04 seats.
Democratic and Social Movement (MDS): 02 seats
Renewal and Equity Party (PRE): 02 seats.
Environment and Sustainable Development Party (PEDD): 02 Seats.
Al Ahd Addimocrati Party: 02 seats.
Green left party (PGV): 01 seat.
Freedom and Social Justice Party (PLJS): 01 seat.
The Front of Democratic Forces (FFD): 01 seat.
Party of Action (PA): 01 seat
Unity and democracy Party: 01 seat.
Nidal Chebbak is Morocco World News’ correspondent in Fez, Morocco.