CAIRO - Morocco's Islamist Justice and Development Party won the largest number of seats in the country's new parliament, according to election results announced Saturday, but it will need to form a coalition government with several smaller parties because it lacks a majority.
Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad announced the results, which indicated that outgoing Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's Justice and Development Party (PJD) won 125 seats out of 395. The second-largest party, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which has close ties to the monarchy, ran a close second with 102 seats.
Moroccan TV showed residents of the capital, Rabat, applauding and cars honking in the streets after results were announced. But the PJD will have a difficult time forming a coalition government, many analysts said. The PAM has said it will not form a coalition with the PJD, forcing it to ally with smaller parties — and many of the PJD's former coalition partners lost strength in the election.
Stressing the positive
At a news conference, Benkirane declared his party had won a major victory. He said he wouldn't discuss the details of the election but insisted that the results were completely positive. He noted that in some cities his party had won six out of eight seats, and three out of four in the city of Sellah.
Morocco's electoral system precludes any one party from obtaining an outright majority. Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, told VOA that Morocco's system is geared to make King Mohammed VI the final arbiter of the country's politics — the king chooses the prime minister from the party with the largest number of seats in parliament — and that the Justice and Development Party would therefore not wield a great deal of power.
"It is just the leading party in parliament but it lacks the power to pass legislation, because with the presence of so many parties in parliament, the cabinet [is] fragmented and weak," he said. "This way, the king and his political establishment [dominate] political events."