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Morocco king ousts PM in bid to end political impasse


<p>The king of Morocco is to appoint a new prime minister, the royal palace announced, after an unprecedented five months of talks on forming a coalition government ended in failure.</p> <p>“To break the current deadlock, the king has decided to appoint another member of the <span class="caps">PJD</span> (Justice and Development Party) to lead the government within the shortest time possible,” a palace statement said.</p> <p>King Mohammed VI tasked Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane with forming a new government after the Islamist <span class="caps">PJD</span> won the most seats in elections in October 2016.</p> <p>The party had come to power after the king relinquished some of his near-absolute power following Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011, with Benkirane heading a previous coalition government for five years.</p> <p>But this time the <span class="caps">PJD</span> failed to form a majority despite five months of intense negotiations — the longest time Morocco has been without a government in its recent history.</p> <p>Benkirane proposed to rebuild his outgoing coalition, an alliance comprising a range of parties including other Islamists, liberals and ex-communists.</p> <p>However he faced opposition from Aziz Akhannouch — leader of the National Rally of Independents (<span class="caps">RNI</span>) and a billionaire former agriculture minister who is close to the king — and the resulting power struggle quickly led to political impasse.</p> <p>The king has “repeatedly urged Benkirane to accelerate the formation of the new government,” the palace said. But, after returning at the beginning of the week from a long African tour, the sovereign found negotiations “had not succeeded”, with little prospect of a break in the deadlock.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">PJD</span> was the first Islamist party to win an election in Morocco and the first to lead a government after the king — whose family claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed and has ruled Morocco since the early 1600s — gave up some of his power when thousands took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations inspired by the wave of uprisings across the Arab world.</p> <p>A senior Moroccan official told <span class="caps">AFP</span> “this decision, where the Islamist <span class="caps">PJD</span> retains control over the forming of a future government, shows that the sovereign wants to consolidate the democratic change”.</p>
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