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Moroccan king’s backers vow more pressure on govt

A new party loyal to Morocco’s King Mohammed plans to step up opposition to the north African country’s coalition government after local elections on Friday, the party’s leaders said.

The government lost its majority in parliament last month when the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which groups the king’s staunch supporters, withdrew its support.

The PAM’s 46 members of Parliament are now in opposition, but one of its leaders is still serving as education minister.

The government is in survival mode for now after the king, who wields huge powers as a head of state and religious leader, said it should press on with its tasks which include organising Friday’s election.

Analysts say PAM sees an opportunity to build support among voters as the government is widely perceived as weak and unpopular.

Without PAM’s support in the 325-seat lower house, the government will fall in December when it faces its first test of confidence as it lacks the votes needed to endorse a draft budget, political analysts said.

”We will not let up in our opposition to the government. We will continue to hit it,” said Fouad Ali Himma, a close friend of the king and a former top security official.

PAM is widely seen as Himma’s brainchild.

Analysts argue that success in the election might embolden the PAM to reach out to parties including the moderate Islamist opposition Justice and Development Party, which is the second biggest party in Parliament, to pile up pressure on the government and ultimately causing its collapse.

”Our goal is the same as the opposition in France, Italy or Portugal. We decided to be a smart and constructive opposition,” PAM’s General Secretary Mohamed Sheikh Biadillah told Reuters.

When asked whether the party would seek to topple the government in Parliament in coming months, he said this week: ”I cannot give an answer to that now. The party’s policy-making national council will meet after the elections and decide on that.”

King support
The government and Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi are repeatedly criticised for failing to solve Morocco’s social and economic problems including widespread unemployment among young university graduates and a lack of decent services in cities.

”The main cause of voter apathy today is the existence of a prime minister and a government without political weight or a political programme. They enjoy only the king’s trust,” wrote political analyst Taoufik Bouachrine in a commentary on Tuesday.

Another commentator called the government ”a collective punishment for the Moroccan people” following a record-low turnout of 37% in a 2007 legislative election.

Officials say the government is stable as long as it does not lose the king’s support or fails in a confidence vote in Parliament.

Biadillah sounded upbeat about PAM’s chances to win the most 27 795 seats in Morocco’s 1 503 villages and town councils, citing the party’s attractiveness with its programme focusing on developing the country’s 16 regions by promoting local leaders instead of pandering to the government bureacracy in Rabat.

”More than 60% of our candidates had never been involved in politics before. That means we are a political force with great appeal and we are reaching all quarters of society,” he added.

Biadillah gave no details but other leading figures in the party said they expected to emerge ahead with between 13% and 15% of seats.

”In all modesty, I can say that our party is filling the political void caused by old parties,” he added. — Reuters

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