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Morocco Cabinet Unveiled; Baraka Named Finance Minister

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI accepted Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s proposed Cabinet, in which Nizar Baraka of the Istiqlal Party becomes the new economy and finance minister, the official Maghreb Arabe Presse agency said.

Fouad Douiri will be energy, mines, water and environment minister, Rabat-based MAP said today. He is also from Istiqlal, which has taken part in almost every government since independence in 1956 and shares a nationalist, pro-monarchy stance with the country’s other major parties. The new justice minister is Mustafa Ramid, a member of Benkirane’s Justice and Development Party, or PJD, the main Islamist party.

The PJD, which has pledged to create jobs, won the biggest bloc of seats in Nov. 25 elections and invited the main political parties to join a coalition government. The delay in forming a Cabinet and today’s appointments are an indication of how difficult the negotiations were and the challenges ahead.

“This is a government of compromise, between the main Islamic party and the monarchy, between the Islamist parties and the other parties, and compromises within each political party,” said Abdeslam Maghraoui, a politics professor at Duke University. “I don’t think much will come out of this in terms of change just because of the nature of how it is made -- when you compromise, you are always going to be timid.”

Arab Upheaval

The elections were moved up from September of this year in response to calls for reform that swept the Arab world. Since the regional uprisings began about a year ago, King Mohammed VI has vowed to shift some royal powers to an elected premier.

Sound macroeconomic policies, put in place over the past decade, and political reforms mean the country is well placed to respond to unrest, the International Monetary Fund said in July. Inflation is under control, credit continues to grow and non-agricultural gross domestic product may have reached 6 percent in 2011, the IMF said.

The country’s main challenge is achieving a GDP rate that will help reduce unemployment, which was at 9 percent and hitting the young, women and graduates hardest, the IMF said. Third-quarter GDP rose an annual 4.8 percent, the statistics agency in Rabat said yesterday. Istiqlal has said it aims for economic growth of 5 percent with inflation of about 2 percent.

Grace Period

The new government will probably enjoy several months of grace as Moroccans give it a chance to prove itself, said Abdellah Tourabi, a researcher at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. After that, voters will be looking to see how it deals with economic and social issues, he said.

Morocco’s new constitution, approved in a July referendum, provides for the naming of a prime minister from the party that comes first in elections, rather than leaving the choice to the king. It also gives the premier the right to dissolve parliament and cedes to lawmakers the right to grant amnesty to prisoners.

The PJD took 11 of the 31 Cabinet posts, including foreign affairs, transportation and communication. The party won 107 of the 395 seats in parliament.

Bassima Hakkaoui, a member of the PJD, will be the only woman in the Cabinet as social and women’s affairs minister. The lack of female ministers “doesn’t reflect any conservative Islamic tendency, rather the fact that there are hardly any women in the main parties,” Tourabi said.

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