RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco's King Mohammed on Monday named moderate Islamist leader Abdelilah Benkirane as prime minister for a second term after his party won the most seats in last week's election, a senior party member said.
After five years in government, the Justice and Development Party (PJD) party won 125 seats while the rival Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) took 102, in a tight race for the 395-seat parliament that will complicate formation of a coalition.
The elections were a test for Morocco's constitutional monarchy, five years after the king devolved some powers to an elected government to ease Arab Spring-style protests demanding democratic change. The king still holds most executive authority and names the premier from the winning party in elections.
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"I can confirm his majesty named him as the new prime minister," Mustapha Ramid, outgoing justice minister and a senior PJD party official, told Reuters, after attending the nomination of Benkirane in Casablanca.
Benkirane confirmed his nomination to local news websites.
Under Morocco's multi-party system, no one party can secure an outright majority, and must negotiate with others to form a coalition government. The PAM's strong position means the PJD must join with at least three other parties to have a house majority.
Since being appointed prime minister in 2011, Benkirane has pursued economic reforms to reduce the budget deficit and tackle subsidies. The PJD has been popular for its anti-corruption message. No party in the vote directly challenged the palace.
The PAM, founded by a close friend of the king who is now a palace adviser, portrayed itself as a liberal alternative to Islamists. But critics say it was used by the royal establishment, uncomfortable about sharing power with Islamists, to push back PJD influence.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Andrew Roche)