Morocco king to replace PM to end political impasse
The king of Morocco is to appoint a new prime minister, the palace announced, after an unprecedented five months of talks on forming a coalition government ended in failure.
"To break the current deadlock, the king has decided to appoint another member of the PJD (Justice and Development Party) to lead the government within the shortest time possible," a palace statement said.
King Mohammed VI tasked Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane with forming a new government after the Islamist PJD won the most seats in elections in October 2016.
The party had come to power after the king relinquished some of his near-absolute control following Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011, with Benkirane heading a previous coalition government for five years.
But this time the PJD failed to form a majority despite five months of intense negotiations -- the longest time Morocco has been without a government in its recent history.
Benkirane told AFP on Thursday that he would also step down from leadership of the PJD in the months ahead.
"We cannot comment on decisions taken by the leadership. All I can say is that of course I accept this decision, which falls in line with the constitution. One cannot say no to His Majesty," he said.
Benkirane had proposed to rebuild his outgoing coalition, an alliance comprising a range of parties including other Islamists, liberals and ex-communists.
However he faced opposition from Aziz Akhannouch -- leader of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and a billionaire former agriculture minister who is close to the king -- and the resulting power struggle quickly led to political impasse.
The king has "repeatedly urged Benkirane to accelerate the formation of the new government," the palace said in its statement issued late Wednesday.
But, after returning at the beginning of the week from a long African tour, the sovereign found negotiations "had not succeeded", with little prospect of a break in the deadlock.
The PJD was the first Islamist party to win an election in Morocco and the first to lead a government after the king -- whose family claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed and has ruled Morocco since the early 1600s -- gave up some of his power when thousands took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations inspired by the wave of uprisings across the Arab world.
A senior Moroccan official told AFP "this decision, where the Islamist PJD retains control over the forming of a future government, shows that the sovereign wants to consolidate the democratic change".