Islamist party loses key positions after Moroccan cabinet reshuffle

Fri 11 Oct 2013

Islamist party loses key positions after Moroccan cabinet reshuffle

Morocco announced on October 10th a government reshuffle on the eve of parliament’s reopening that sees the Islamists giving up the key positions in the cabinet to a party known for its close ties to the palace.

RNI in key ministries
The new government, which keeps the leader of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) Abdelilah Benkirane as Prime Minister, ends months of negotiating after the conservative Istiglal Party pulled out. This party left the coalition in July in a dispute over cuts and other issues. The center-right National Rally of Independents (RNI), which is close to the King, will replace ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party. Morocco's King Mohamed V named 19 new ministers on 10 October after the prime minister reached a deal to form a new coalition that weakened the ruling Islamists who are trying to push through unpopular reforms to subsidies and the pensions system. The king increased the number of ministers to 39 from 30 and put the RNI in key ministries such as interior, finance and foreign affairs. ‘’It is obvious that the palace is taking the control of sensitive reforms such as the subsidies,’’ Najib Akesbi, an economist from the Argonomy Institute in Rabat said. "I call it the government of His Majesty, not the Islamist government anymore."

Ultimate authority

The PJD came to power after constitutional reforms and early elections in 2011 that were proposed by the king to stifle Arab Spring-inspired protests that called for a fully elected government. When the right-wing Istiqlal Party pulled out of the coalition, the PJD decided to start negotiations with the National Rally for Independents. This party was created in the 1970s by the king's father Hassan II to counter leftist opposition. It has the third largest number of seats in parliament, with 52 members in the lower house, and 39 counselors in the second chamber. RNI, while in negotiations, criticized the government's decision to raise energy prices and cut subsidies - suggesting it, like Istiqlal, will try to obstruct the reforms.

The PJD, which has 107 seats in parliament, must work with other parties such as RNI, because of the law organizing elections does not allow one party to take full control. It is also sharing power with the Popular movement, and the Socialism and Progress Party that were both in the previous coalition. While the constitution gives the government more power, the king still retains the ultimate authority in the North African kingdom.

Resources: Reuters, Morocco worldnews, Washington Post