News / Middle East

Morocco's King Names New Ministers, Islamists Lose Ground

King Mohammed (R) of Morocco greets an unidentified person as he is welcomed by Mali's new President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (C) at the Bamako-Senou International Airport September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon (MALI - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS) - RTX13QN
King Mohammed (R) of Morocco greets an unidentified person as he is welcomed by Mali's new President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (C) at the Bamako-Senou International Airport September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon (MALI - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS) - RTX13QN
Morocco's King Mohamed named 19 new ministers on Thursday after the prime minister reached a deal to form a new coalition that weakens the ruling Islamists, who are trying to push through unpopular reforms to subsidies and the pensions system.

The center-right National Rally of Independents [RNI], which is close to the palace, will replace ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party, which left the coalition in July in a dispute over the cuts and other issues.

The king increased the number of ministers to 39 from 30 to satisfy the four parties in the coalition, but placed his allies in key ministries, such as interior, finance and foreign affairs.

He also replaced General Affairs Minister Najib Boulif, who was in charge of the reforms for Prime Minister Abdelillah Benkirane's Islamist Justice and Development party [PJD], with Mohamed El Ouafa, who was Istiqlal education minister and refused to quit with his colleagues in July.

“It is obvious that the palace is taking the control of sensitive reforms such as the subsidies,” said Najib Akesbi, an economist from the Argonomy Institute in Rabat. “I call it the government of His Majesty, not the Islamist government any more.”

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.

Although the cuts in subsidies and a hike in energy prices have been recommended by the IMF to help shore up the public finances - suggesting they should be replaced by direct aid to the poorest - the royal elite is worried their implementation could trigger more unrest.

Ultimate authority

There have been almost daily protests in the capital Rabat by groups of unemployed graduates, but in the past weeks they have gained support from the opposition Islamist Justice and Spirituality group.

While the constitution gives the government more power, the king still retains the ultimate authority in the North African kingdom and the PJD's new partner, the RNI, is allied to a palace ill at ease at sharing power with Islamists.

It 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.

While RNI was in negotiations with Benkirane to form the coalition, ending months of deadlock, it 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.

Mohamed Hassad, a technocrat and the head of the Tangier Port Authority, was named interior minister, while Salaheddine Mezouar, the RNI leader, became foreign minister.

Mohamed Boussaid, a former RNI minister and governor of Casablanca city, took the Finance Ministry post.

“The alliance with the RNI is another blow for the PJD's credibility and reputation,” said Maati Monjib, a political historian from Rabat University.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

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