Morocco votes in first poll since Mohamed VI's reforms

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Some 13.6m Moroccans were eligible to vote in the first election since the new constitution was adopted

Polls have closed in Morocco's first parliamentary elections since a new constitution was approved by a referendum in July.

The vote in the north African kingdom was brought forward in response to the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Interior Ministry said 45% of the electorate had turned out to vote.

The new constitution, proposed by King Mohamed VI, gives more powers to the parliament and prime minister.

The king must now appoint the PM from the party which wins the most seats, rather than naming whomever he pleases.

The result is expected to be a close contest between a moderate Islamist opposition party and a new coalition of liberals with close ties to the palace.

Under the new constitution, the king still has the final say on issues of defence, security and religion.

About 13.5 million Moroccans are eligible to vote for the 395-seat parliament. Although the turnout was an improvement on the 37% who took part in the 2007 election, it was less than the 51.6% in 2002.

'Test poll'

The BBC's Nora Fakim, in the capital, Rabat, says the polls are seen as a test of the king's response to the Arab Spring, and his gamble of ceding some of his powers to elected officials.

The pro-reform February 20 movement, responsible for the protests staged just before the king announced his plans to reform the constitution, called for a boycott of the vote.

Some Moroccans said they would not vote as they had little faith that it would change anything.

"I am not going to vote, and I say it with my head held high," Aicha, a housewife in the mountain village of Tiddas, told AFP news agency.

Hassan Rafiq, a vegetable vendor in Rabat, told AP news agency he also did not plan cast his ballot: "The parties have presented the same people for the past 30 years. The least they could do is change their candidates."

Late on Friday, the moderate Islamists of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) said that they believed they had gained between 90 and 100 seats in the 395-seat chamber, which would represent the largest share. However, there was no official confirmation of this result.

The party hopes to replicate the success of moderate Islamists in Tunisia who won an election last month.

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