Jew loses out to Islamists in Morocco poll

By Andrew Rosemarine, December 1, 2011
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Kakon on the campaign trail

Kakon on the campaign trail

Magui Kakon, probably the only Jewish woman to have ever contested a parliamentary election in an Arab country, stood for Morocco's Party of the Social Centre this week.

Despite failing to win a parliamentary seat, Ms Kakon won 80,000 votes, up by 50,000 on her 2007 election campaign, and she remains upbeat.

"Moroccan democracy has moved forwards, and with it, her minorities," said Ms Kakon, who runs a property business and writes Jewish cookbooks.

Ms Kakon, who lives in Casablanca, told newspaper Akhbar al Yawm that her religion was a positive factor, a symbol of the diversity of the kingdom, where Arabs, Berbers and Jews have lived side by side for centuries.

But for the first time ever in Morocco, an Islamic party topped the election results this week. The Islamic Party of Justice and Development (PJD), previously the largest opposition group, won 107 out of 395 seats.

Lahsen Daoudi, head of the PJD's parliamentary group, described the results as a "historic turning point". Under the new constitution, accepted by referendum in July, the leader of the winning party has the right to become Prime Minister and set up a new administration.

The PJD has begun looking for partners for a coalition. Abdelilah Benkirane, PJD's 57-year-old Secretary General who has been called upon by the king to form a new government, said that the PJD was "open to everyone" and will change its programme to bring in coalition partners.

Outgoing premier Abbas Al Fassi, of the nationalist Istiqlal party, is expected to join the coalition with his 60 seats. He has described PJD's win as "a victory for democracy". The Union of Socialist Progressive Forces, which won 39 seats, is also expected by many to join the coalition.

The PJD is considered moderate in the West, and has made it clear it will neither ban alcohol nor impose the veil.

However in Morocco, the PJD is thought to be highly conservative. A common view is that the party has deliberately sought to project a less hardline image since the 2003 Casablancan bombings, for which Islamists were convicted.

Last updated: 12:16pm, December 1 2011