- Title: Moroccan PM confident as elections loom
- Date: 3rd October 2016
- Summary: ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** PARTY'S POSTER LAMP SYMBOL, SLOGAN READING (Arabic): "OUR VOICE IS OUR CHANCE TO CONTINUE THE REFORMS" RABAT, MOROCCO (OCTOBER 3, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOROCCAN PRIME MINISTER AND GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY, ABDELILAH BENKIRANE, SAYING: "I think it has been five very successful years. I thank God for this success and I congratulate myself for doing so well with the help of God. You asked about our failures. In my opinion, I thought we would distribute among the poor what we managed to save from the compensation fund. This was one of our major failures. There are some laws we managed to adopt at government level, but they were not examined by the parliament and we are worried about them. This is the case with the law on medical cover for parents and independents. In all honesty, there is a field where we failed and that is education. Also, employment. We managed some respectable achievements but the road ahead is still long. They are specific fields with specific circumstances." RABAT, MOROCCO (SEPTEMBER 25, 2016) (REUTERS) SIGN AT RALLY READING (Arabic): "THE PEOPLE WANT THE CONTINUATION OF THE REFORMS" VARIOUS OF DELEGATES SEATED AT RALLY BENKIRANE ON STAGE WITH SAAD EDDINE OTHMANI, CHAIRMAN OF THE PARTY'S NATIONAL COUNCIL RABAT, MOROCCO (OCTOBER 3, 2016) (REUTERS) BENKIRANE'S HAND WITH HIS BEADS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOROCCAN PRIME MINISTER AND GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY, ABDELILAH BENKIRANE, SAYING: "Everyone knows that the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial institutions, including European ones, are an essential partner for states. Everyone knows that if they come to power tomorrow, they cannot do without them. The International Monetary Fund did not come to Morocco of its own accord. It was Morocco that it asked it for help in 2012 because the Moroccan budget was suffocating and we were going back to the years of structural adjustment. It came to Morocco because the country was in the need of a loan to cover the deficit caused by the compensation fund. But it had its conditions. Its conditions included wanting to know how the country's budget was administered etc. We decided to reform the compensation fund of our own accord, to reform pension funds, the problems of water and electricity and other sectors such as employment because it was for the good of the country. If our views coincided with those of the IMF, then I don't consider this a problem at all, but as something normal and necessary."
- 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: LVA00252GCAIV
- 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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