Rabat (AFP) – The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PDJ), which has headed Morocco’s coalition government for the last five years, came top in parliamentary polls on Friday according to provisional results released by the Interior Ministry.The Islamists took 99 seats while the the liberal opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) took 80, with 90 percent of the vote counted.
Istiqlal, the party which historically fought for independence from France, came in third place with 31 seats, followed by a number of smaller groups.
Participation was at 43 percent, or roughly 6,750,000 voters, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said during a press conference in the capital Rabat.
He said the election was “transparent” and had gone well, rejecting accusations from the PJD earlier in the day of voter fraud being carried out by authorities in favour of its liberal rivals.
Full results will be announced on Saturday but the PJD already has a comfortable lead and seems highly likely to head up the next government.
The PJD came to power in 2011, months after massive, Arab Spring-inspired street protests prompted concessions from the monarchy.
A new constitution transferred some of the king’s powers to parliament, at a time when autocratic regimes were falling in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
While in government, the PJD passed a controversial reform of the retirement system and followed a relatively liberal economic policy.
Its task has been complicated by the unstable world economy and a drought this year that hit Morocco’s vital agricultural sector and sent growth plummeting.