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Morocco King appoints billionaire fuel tycoon Akhannouch as PM

Leader of the National Independents Union Party (RNI), Aziz Akhannouch holds a press conference on the election results in Rabat, Morocco on September 09, 2021 [Jalal Morchidi / Anadolu Agency]
Leader of the National Independents Union Party (RNI), Aziz Akhannouch holds a press conference on the election results in Rabat, Morocco on September 09, 2021 [Jalal Morchidi / Anadolu Agency]

Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Friday appointed billionaire fuel tycoon Aziz Akhannouch as prime minister after his party came first in Wednesday's parliamentary election, reported Reuters.

Akhannouch, a former agriculture minister, is one of Morocco's richest men with a fortune estimated at about $2 billion. He has led the liberal RNI party since 2016.

On Wednesday, RNI won 102 of the parliament's 395 seats as the vote share of the moderate PJD party that had been the biggest in the previous two elections collapsed.

Under reforms introduced in 2011, the King picks the prime minister from the largest party in parliament but retains veto power over cabinet members. In recent years he has taken back more powers within the palace walls, analysts say.

RNI is seen as close to the royal establishment and Akhannouch said in a speech after the election results were declared that he would "implement his majesty's vision."

Morocco: Benkirane 'pained' by party's election defeat

Akhannouch, whose holding company operates in the fuel and gas distribution business, and was targeted by a consumer boycott campaign in 2018 over prices, has pushed RNI as a champion of social and economic reforms.

It must now build a governing coalition that can command a parliamentary majority of at least 198 seats.

The next-largest party after Wednesday's vote was PAM, which is also liberal and pro establishment, with 86 seats.

The PJD, whose leader Saad Dine El Otmani had been prime minister since 2017, has complained of violations in the election including what it said was vote buying by rivals.

However, after securing only 13 seats compared to 125 in 2016 it has said it will go into opposition and not seek to join the next governing coalition. Otmani and some other senior members have resigned their party posts.

Opinion: Why has Morocco's Justice and Development Party lost so badly?

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