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Moroccans Vote in Parliamentary Elections, Islamists Expect Victory


Moroccans are voting in legislative elections in which opposition Islamists could emerge as the kingdom's largest party in parliament.

Candidates from 33 parties and a number of independents are vying in Friday's elections for seats in the 325-member national assembly.

The Justice and Development Party, a moderate Islamic group, says it hopes to increase its 42 seats in parliament to become the largest party in the legislature.

The group has vowed to fight corruption, a pledge that is popular with poor Moroccans who resent what they perceive to be ruling elitists.

But, with Morocco's complex voting system, no party will be able to win an outright majority in parliament.

Justice and Development Party leader Saad Eddine Othmani says his group opposes Islamic extremism and supports Morocco's King Mohamed, who is the head of state and the military.

The Islamists also have campaigned to improve morality in the north African country of 34 million people. The Muslim nation has popular tourist resorts and bars, and many Moroccan women do not wear Islamic headscarves.

Morocco's outgoing government has highlighted its five-year record of building roads and ports, improving public housing, boosting the rights of married women and other reforms.

Observers say even if the Islamists make gains, King Mohamed is unlikely to ask Justice and Development Party leader Othmani to serve as prime minister.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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