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Some 18 million voters were called to the polls Wednesday in Morocco to renew Parliament. The new head of government will come from the party that came first in this legislative election. The future of Islamists in power for more than a decade is at stake.

The Moroccans voted on Wednesday (September 8) in general elections which should determine the future of the Islamist PJD party, in power for a decade and which denounced “serious irregularities” during the poll.

“We are following with great concern the conduct of the elections at the national level. We have noted several irregularities,” lamented the Justice and Development Party (PJD) in a statement released at the end of the afternoon.

This moderate Islamist party denounced “the obscene distribution of money” near polling stations as well as “confusion” on certain electoral lists, citizens not finding their name there.

The PJD urged the authorities to intervene “severely and quickly” so as “not to mar the transparency of the elections”.

The end of the short electoral campaign, marked by the absence of major political meetings because of Covid-19, had already been poisoned by accusations of buying votes.

Voting ended at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) and ballots were counted in the evening. According to the Interior Ministry, the turnout reached 36% nationally at 5 p.m.

A statement from the Home Office on the provisional results was expected overnight Wednesday through Thursday, around 12:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. GMT), according to local media. The final results should be known on Thursday.

It was the first time that the 18 million voters chose their 395 deputies on the same day as their municipal and regional representatives. Which could reduce abstention.

For the daily L’Économiste, participation is the “real stake in the polls” on Wednesday. It had capped at 43% in previous legislative elections.

“Today is an important day in Morocco. I vote because it is my duty,” a voter told AFP at a polling station in Casablanca, the economic capital.

The head of government will come from the party that won the legislative ballot. He is appointed by King Mohammed VI and responsible for forming his executive for a five-year term.

In this kingdom of 36 million inhabitants, the decisions and the main orientations of the strategic sectors remain the prerogative of the monarch.

Long confined to the opposition, the PJD hopes to run for a third consecutive term as head of government.

He had achieved historic electoral success after protests by the “February 20 Movement” – the Moroccan version of the Arab Spring of 2011 – which called for an end to “corruption and despotism”.

A lively controversy has erupted in recent days between the PJD and its liberal rival the National Rally of Independents (RNI), two of the favorites of the legislative elections, with the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM, liberal) and the Istiqlal Party (center -right) who are in opposition.

The former head of government and former secretary general of the PJD, Abdelilah Benkirane, ruled that “the presidency of the government needs a politician with integrity”, targeting Aziz Akhannouch, head of the RNI and wealthy businessman, in a video on Facebook.

Minister of Agriculture since 2007, Aziz Akhannouch retorted that the criticisms of the Islamists were “an admission of failure” and “were only intended to sow discord”.

At the head of one of the largest fortunes in the country and described as close to the Royal Palace, the minister played a key role in the previous government, controlling important portfolios such as Economy and Finance or Industry.

It is the first time since the first elections in Morocco were held in 1960 that the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives will be calculated on the basis of the number of registered voters and not of voters. This new method of calculation should handicap the large parties, to the benefit of small groups.

Because if it achieved the same score as in 2016, the PJD would this time obtain, according to estimates, only 80 to 85 seats, against 125 at the time. This would complicate its task of forming a new government coalition in the event of victory.

After the election, all political parties are supposed to adopt “a pact” resulting from a “new development model”, which foreshadows a “new generation of reforms and projects”, as Mohammed VI recently promised.

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