A general election was held on October 7, and the Islamist PJD, the lead party in the incumbent government, once again finished first, claiming a total of 125 seats in the 395-member Parliament. In accordance with reforms agreed to by King Mohamed VI in 2011, PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane has been tasked with forming a majority government.
The prime minister has reached an agreement with the leftist PPS, which was a member of the governing coalition throughout Benkirane’s previous term, and is reportedly close to a deal with the PI, which joined the PJD-led government formed after the 2011 elections, but moved into opposition in September 2013 after failing to resolve a disagreement over planned fiscal reforms.
However, the three parties claim a combined total of only 183 seats, 15 short of the number required for a bare majority in the Parliament. With the main opposition PAM having ruled out a partnership with the PJD, and testy relations between the PJD and the RNI likely ruling out a renewal of their alliance, Benkirane hopes of forming a majority government rest on reaching a coalition agreement with either the centrist MP, the left-leaning USFP, or both.
Although the addition of a fifth party would make the coalition more unwieldy, and require a broader sharing of the political spoils, the addition of both the MP and the USFP would give the government a 33-seat majority, a cushion that could come in handy if, as he has promised, Benkirane plans to use his renewed mandate to push ahead with a stalled program of reforms, many of which are sure to be unpopular.
Benkirane’s critics contend that pension reforms and deep cuts to spending on subsidies for fuel and other basic items would not be necessary if the government would instead clamp down on corruption and waste, and focus more attention on spurring job creation. Although voters have opted to stick with Benkirane’s strategy, it is not a given that the prime minister will be able to convince other parties to sign on to his program, or to faithfully implement it in the likely event that it meets public resistance.