Morocco’s long-ruling Islamists have suffered a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections to liberal parties seen as close to the palace, according to provisional results announced early Thursday.
The Justice and Development Party (PJD), which headed the ruling coalition for a decade, saw its support collapse from 125 seats in the outgoing assembly to just 12, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said during a press briefing following Wednesday’s polls.
It was far behind its main liberal rivals, the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), with 97 and 82, respectively, and the centre-right Istiqlal Party with 78 seats in the 395-seat assembly.
The RNI, which was a junior member of the governing coalition, is headed by billionaire businessman Aziz Akhannouch, described as close to the palace.
And the main opposition PAM was founded by the current royal adviser, Fouad Ali El Himma, in 2008.
The Istiqlal (Independence) party, the oldest in Morocco, made a remarkable comeback, adding 32 seats.
The magnitude of the Islamists’ defeat was unexpected as, despite the absence of opinion polls that are banned near election time, the media and analysts had believed the PJD would still take first place.
Swept to power in the wake of the 2011 uprisings around the Middle East and North Africa, the PJD had hoped to secure a third term leading a ruling coalition.
King Mohammed VI will name a prime minister from the party that won the poll to govern the nation of 36 million for the next five years, succeeding Saad-Eddine El Othmani.