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Moroccan party’s surprise win shakes up ruling coalition

The leader of a Moroccan political party whose surprise win in an important parliamentary vote highlighted the government’s shaky foundations has vowed to act as a ”responsible opposition”.

Mohamed Sheikh Biadillah, leader of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), beat the ruling coalition’s candidate to win the presidency of the Chamber of Councillors, or upper house, this month.

On paper, the government’s candidate, Maati Benkaddour, had 165 seats in the 270-member chamber and his win was widely seen as a foregone conclusion.

But Biadillah, a 60-year-old former government minister, won 140 votes and Benkaddour received only 100 as government supporters switched sides or abstained, disenchanted with the weak government and seeing their future with the PAM.

”The PAM’s rise has rendered the government’s current majority obsolete,” said Mohamed Awsab, a political analyst who, like several other observers, saw the government’s future as uncertain after the PAM’s win.

They point out that the PAM, now in control of the Chamber of Councillors, could bring down the government if it were to oppose it in earnest.

The chamber can call a vote of no-confidence in the government or it can paralyse government activity by rejecting its legislative proposals.

But Biadillah, whose party groups some of King Mohammed’s staunchest backers, indicated he would take a ”responsible” line. ”We believe in our role as positive opposition. Our control of the presidency of the Chamber of Councillors will be translated into a responsible opposition,” Biadillah told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Asked whether the PAM would use its strength in the chamber to try to topple the government by turning down its legislative proposals, including the upcoming draft budget, Biadillah said:

”We will address the issues case by case. But we will try as hard as we can to convince others of our ideas and proposals. We will be a smart opposition that is responsible and pays attention to the national interest.”

Islamist attacks
Biadillah and other PAM officials argue that the party has reshaped Morocco’s political landscape since it emerged on top in local elections last June to take control of big cities and the country’s main regions.

The PAM says it has no connection with King Mohammed but the fact that it is the brainchild of Fouad Ali al Himma, a former deputy interior minister and a close friend of the king, has fuelled speculation it is pursuing an agenda set by the palace.

Some politicians and analysts have criticised the PAM for lacking political focus, arguing that its strategy of being in opposition while also being soft on the government will alienate voters.

”We now have a ruling majority that backs the opposition and an opposition that backs the government. I do not understand it. The PAM has confused things,” said Lahcen Daoudi, a senior official from the opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party, who criticised the PAM for lacking vision.

Biadillah disagreed.

”Our strength in the chamber will allow us to advance the country’s political project to further democracy and modernity and open more space for dialogue and debate. We will bring political added value to the chamber,” he said. — Reuters

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