RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco's second largest political party has announced it is withdrawing from the Islamist-led government elected during the Arab Spring and leaving its fate up to the king, a party spokesman said Sunday.
The move by Istiqlal is the first time in Morocco that a party has withdrawn from a ruling coalition. It is now up to King Mohammed VI to decide whether to ask the governing Islamist party to form a new government or hold new elections.
"The party can never remain in a government that continues to pursue policies targeting the buying power of the citizens by raising prices and not listening to our demands for a Cabinet reshuffle," said Istiqlal spokesman Adil Benhamza.
According the party statement made Saturday night, Prime Minister Abdelillah Benkirane of the Islamist Justice and Development Party called the head of Istiqlal and asked him to keep his six ministers in the government for now to ensure it continues to function.
Like the rest of the region, Morocco was swept up by demonstrations in 2011 calling for greater democracy and less corruption. The king moved swiftly to defuse popular anger by amending the constitution to give elected officials greater powers and holding early elections.
The Islamists won the most seats on a platform of reform and fighting corruption — measures they have largely been unable to carry out in the past year because of fighting with coalition partners and an economic crisis brought on by Europe's downturn.
Since January, the Istiqlal leader, Hamid Chabat, has taken a more combative tone toward his senior coalition partner, criticizing its efforts to cut spending and reduce subsidies.
Ahmed Bouz, a political analyst at Rabat's Mohammed V university, said the unprecedented situation leaves the future of the government in the king's hands. "The monarchy would be taking a risk if it let the government fall under the current conditions, amid social tensions and the economic crisis," he said.
He added, however, that the decision by Istiqlal was probably just a tactic to pressure Benkirane for more power-sharing.
Benkirane himself has had no comment on the Istiqlal's decision.