Moroccan king appoints RNI's Akhannouch as PM

RABAT (REUTERS) – Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Friday (Sept 10) appointed billionaire fuel tycoon Aziz Akhannouch as prime minister after his party came first in Wednesday’s parliamentary election.

Mr Akhannouch, a former agriculture minister, is one of Morocco’s richest men, with a fortune estimated at about US$2 billion (S$2.68 billion). He has led the liberal National Rally of Independents (RNI) party since 2016.

On Wednesday, RNI won 102 of Parliament’s 395 seats as the vote share of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) that had been the biggest in the previous two elections collapsed.

Under reforms introduced in 2011, the King picks the prime minister from the largest party in Parliament but retains veto power over Cabinet members. In recent years he has taken back more powers within the palace walls, analysts say.

RNI is seen as close to the royal establishment and Mr Akhannouch said in a speech after the election results were declared that he would “implement his majesty’s vision”. Mr Akhannouch, whose holding company operates in the fuel and gas distribution business, and was targeted by a consumer boycott campaign in 2018 over prices, has pushed RNI as a champion of social and economic reforms.

It must now build a governing coalition that can command a parliamentary majority of at least 198 seats.

The next-largest party after Wednesday’s vote was Authenticity and Modernity Party, or PAM, which is also liberal and pro-establishment, with 86 seats.

The PJD, whose leader Saad Dine El Otmani had been prime minister since 2017, has complained of violations in the election, including what it said was vote buying by rivals.

However, after securing only 13 seats compared with 125 in 2016, it has said it will go into opposition and not seek to join the next governing coalition. Mr Otmani and some other senior members have resigned their party posts.

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