Africa

Islamist leader Abdelilah Benkirane named Morocco PM

Abdelilah Benkirane (L), secretary general of the Justice and Development Party meets Morocco's King Mohammed VI in Midelt, 29 November 2011 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Under the new constitution, King Mohammed has to appoint the prime minister from the largest party.

The leader of a moderate Islamist party has been appointed by King Mohammed VI as Morocco's new prime minister.

Abdelilah Benkirane will now hold talks on forming a coalition government.

His Justice and Development Party (PJD) has not been in government before, but emerged as the biggest party in Friday's parliamentary elections.

Under a new constitution approved by referendum in July, the king has to choose a prime minister from the party that won the most seats.

The PJD took 107 seats out of the 395 in Parliament, almost twice as many as the second-place nationalist Istiqlal party, with 60 seats.

The election was held more than a year early, after pro-democracy demonstrations swept the country earlier this year as part of the regionwide Arab Spring.

Strong monarchist

King Mohammed received Mr Benkirane, who is the PJD's secretary general, in the mountain town of Midelt and named him head of government with the task of forming a new government.

The new constitution also gives the prime minister more powers to govern, but the king still has the final say on issues of defence, security and religion.

The PJD's victory follows that of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda Party in an election there last month.

Mr Benkirane, who was elected head of his party in 2008, leads its more pro-monarchy faction.

He has repeatedly stated his support for a strong king, even though some of his colleagues would prefer a less powerful ruler.

"The head of the state is king and no-one can govern without him," he told supporters on Sunday.

The PJD has said it will promote Islamic finance. However, it has avoided focusing on issues such as alcohol and headscarves for women.

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