- Title: Moroccan PM confident as elections loom
- Date: 3rd October 2016
- Summary: RABAT, MOROCCO (SEPTEMBER 25, 2016) (REUTERS) BENKIRANE AND CANDIDATES ON STAGE SIGNING THE PARTY'S ELECTORAL PACT
- Embargoed: 18th October 2016 19:00
- Keywords: Abdelilah Benkirane Morocco election prime minister PJD
- Location: RABAT, MOROCCO
- City: RABAT, MOROCCO
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA00552GCAIV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Morocco's Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane said his ruling Islamist party would advance economic reforms including further rationalisation of subsidies sought by international lenders if it wins this week's parliamentary election.
Moroccans vote on Friday (October 7) in only the second parliamentary election since the king relinquished some of his powers to an elected cabinet in 2011 under a constitutional reform to help ease Arab Spring-style protests demanding change.
No party openly challenges King Mohamed's authority, but Benkirane's Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) is looking to consolidate gains in the constitutional monarchy system against rivals who analysts say are closer to the palace.
After leading the ruling coalition for five years, Benkirane's party is popular for its anti-corruption stance, but has also pushed an austerity programme that has helped overhaul the public finances.
"We are for continuity," Benkirane told Reuters at his home in Rabat. "The most important reform that I could not do in my first mandate was to reallocate a part of the budget that we used to give to subsidies to the poorest."
More than its North African neighbours, Morocco has been praised by multilateral lenders for controlling the high public spending and subsidised welfare systems that plagued the region for years, even before the Arab Spring uprisings prompted governments to ramp up spending.
Most recently, the government pushed through a pension system reform that raised the retirement age and increased worker pension contributions. That followed freezes on public hiring, tax and subsidy reforms.
But curbing public job hiring and cutting subsidies and other benefits that Moroccans have enjoyed for years have this year brought protests and strikes.
Benkirane said next year's subsidy spending was under review, but would likely be less than this year's 15 billion dirhams ($1.55 billion) and closer to 12 billion dirhams.
Unlike rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya overthrown in Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, Morocco's king rode out popular protests with a combination of constitutional reform, increased spending and tightened security.
The king still holds ultimate power, controlling a judiciary council, most security services, religious affairs bodies and a council of ministers that must approve all legislation.
The PJD is widely expected by analysts to remain the dominant party over main rivals the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), whose founder is now a palace adviser. But Morocco's election system means no one party can win outright, forcing the winner into coalition talks.
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