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Another Win for Islamists in Arab Uprising Fallout

Samara Greenberg

The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) of Morocco was victorious in Friday’s parliamentary elections by winning a majority of the seats, final election results confirmed Sunday. With 107 seats out of the 395-seat body — almost twice as many as the party that came in second — the PJD is set to lead the next Moroccan government.

The elections were held a year early as part of reforms undertaken by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to appease the population swept up with the Arab World’s uprisings and calling for greater freedoms and a crack-down on corruption. The constitution was also modified to give the next parliament and prime minister more powers, and now the next prime minister must be chosen from someone within the PJD rather than whomever the king desires.

Abdelilah Benkirane, general secretary of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party.

The next Morrocan PM will be the first ever from an Islamist party, reflecting a current trend in the region. Thus far, elections in countries affected by the Arab uprisings of 2011 have benefited Islamist movements the most, long suppressed by their respective regimes. Libyan transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil has already declared that his country will follow Islamic law, the Islamist Ennahda party was victorious in Tunisia’s recent elections, and the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s fall, held Monday.

Unlike those countries, however, at this point power remains in the hands of the Moroccan king, even after his reforms. Morocco’s Islamist winners will therefore not likely make an impacting difference on the country for the time being. Nevertheless, the PJD’s victory is another win for the region’s Islamist parties who have spent decades cultivating their message and attracting followers, waiting for a time like this.