News / Middle East

Morocco's Islamists Set for Power Deal with Center Right

Vendors sell produce in Rabat in January 15, 2013. Morocco's government offers food and energy subsidies to help keep down the living costs of millions of people.
Vendors sell produce in Rabat in January 15, 2013. Morocco's government offers food and energy subsidies to help keep down the living costs of millions of people.
Morocco's ruling Islamists look set to form a new coalition government with a liberal party after their previous conservative partners walked out in a row centered on cuts to fuel and food subsidies.
Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane told Reuters his party would hold a second round of talks with the center-right liberal RNI party on a power-sharing deal in the coming days.
Five ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party quit the coalition this month, arguing among other things that the senior partner, the Islamist Justice and Development party (PJD), was hurting the poor by reducing subsidies too fast.
“We have met most of the Moroccan political parties, and now we will start the second round, mostly with the RNI,” Benkirane said in an interview late on Monday.
Benkirane's PJD has been in power since 2011 when Morocco  adopted a new constitution proposed by King Mohamed and held legislative elections in a bid to appease Arab Spring-inspired protests.
Some analysts believe the palace, ill at ease with the Islamists' rise to power across the region since uprisings began in 2011, may have backed last week's defection by Istiqlal in order to weaken the PJD-led government.
Tensions between Islamists and their opponents have come to a head in fellow North African countries Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, resulting in violent political upheaval in recent weeks, including the ousting of Egypt's Islamist president by the military on July 3.
The National Rally of Independents, known by its French acronym RNI, is a party of liberals seen as close to the palace and has the third-largest number of seats in parliament after the PJD and Istiqlal.
But the RNI could be a controversial choice for Benkirane because its leader, former finance minister Salaheddine Mezouar, was embroiled in a corruption scandal.
Last year, the justice minister ordered a judicial investigation after two whistleblowers from the finance ministry leaked documents accusing Mezouar and the head of the national treasury, Noureddine Bensouda, of awarding each other monthly bonuses of more than 70,000 dirhams ($8,300).
The probe against the two was closed in June without explanation, although Morocco's state prosecutor later sent a letter to an anti-corruption NGO saying the bonuses were legal.
The two whistleblowers have since been charged with divulging secret documents.
Benkirane declined to say whether Mezouar would be appointed to any position in a coalition, or to comment on whether a power-sharing deal with the RNI would harm the reputation of his PJD party, which won the elections on an anti-corruption ticket.
But a high-ranking PJD member told Reuters Mezouar could  be given a post in a new government or a senior post in parliament.
“Mezouar could be appointed somewhere as we can clearly understand from the prime minister's words that he is unavoidable,” the party official said, declining to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“But he would not get the finance ministry,” he said, adding that the portfolio would likely be combined with that of PJD member Idriss Azami al-Idrissi, who heads Morocco's budget ministry.
It is uncertain whether the RNI or other potential coalition partners will accept the PJD's controversial plan to reform subsidies.
Morocco defused the Arab Spring-style protests in 2011 with a combination of social spending, harsh policing and constitutional reforms.
Last year, the government agreed to implement economic reforms including the deregulation of many prices of staple goods in return for a two-year, $6.2 billion precautionary credit line from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Benkirane said last month that the IMF had criticized his government for being too slow to enact the reforms, which will put a strain on households used to subsidized oil, gas, sugar and other staples.
Last week, the interior minister, a member of the Popular Movement party which gets most of its backing from rural areas, said that the proposed reforms could destabilize the country if implemented without taking into consideration all the risks.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs