8 August 2013

Morocco Coalition Talks Kick Off

Casablanca — The withdrawal of the Istiqlal Party threatened political stability in Morocco, so the National Rally of Independents (RNI) decided to step into the breach.

Party chief Salaheddine Mezouar accepted Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's invitation to talk with the Justice and Development Party (PJD) on Monday (August 5th) about joining the governing coalition.

"It was in nobody's interest to compromise the political stability of this country and its social cohesion", he told party members on August 2nd, adding that RNI now had an historic responsibility to shoulder.

Mezouar pointed out, however, that RNI was "not a spare tyre" that would merely replace the outgoing Istiqlal ministers.

The May exit of Istiqlal, the second-largest party, opened Morocco up to the possibility of early elections. It also left the PJD holding together the coalition with the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and the Popular Movement (MP).

RNI's arrival on the scene means that Morocco will avoid a political crisis that could have destabilised its institutions and deepened its social problems, university researcher Morad El Noubiri said.

"The PJD, the RNI and the other parties in the coalition will thus have the sensitive task of pursuing the reforms necessitated by the lamentable state of our public finances and the prevailing economic depression," he told Magharebia.

"Taxation, the Subsidy Fund, the pension system, employment and corruption are the main priorities for this reform process, which is as urgent as it is vital for social cohesion," El Noubiri added.

RNI's entry will also give the PJD-led government a solid and comfortable parliamentary majority, economist Aziz Benlaktir said.

"Morocco's political stability is still a cornerstone of its economic activity and foreign investment," he said.

While early legislative elections are now off the table, political analyst Ibrahim Soufiani cautioned that "talks over the make-up of a new ruling coalition will be difficult and complicated and could take some time".

"Agreement will have to be reached over the names of the new ministers and, above all, on a programme and a vision, bearing in mind the fact that the RNI voted against the government's programme," academic Mokrim Hamid said.

According to RNI political bureau member Talbi Alami, however, negotiations with the PJD will focus on the government's vision and programme, "rather than on ministerial posts".

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