Saturday 10/16/21
FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Spain "congratulates" tycoon-led Moroccan government appointed by King

Mohammed VI designated his friend the billionaire Aziz Akhannouch, the second richest man in the country after the king himself, to form the government
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, who accompanies him on his trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: La Moncloa.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (R), talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares. Photo: La Moncloa.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI appointed a new government led by a business tycoon on Friday, a month after the country held legislative polls in which Islamists suffered a humiliating defeat after a decade in power.

The Spanish center-left coalition government immediately responded to the announcement with a statement in which it "congratulates" the new Moroccan executive, a country it describes as a "friend" and a "strategic partner."

The monarch designated his friend the billionaire Aziz Akhannouch, the second richest man in the country after the king himself, to form the government after his liberal party, Rally of National Independents, known by the French acronym PJD, took the lead in the September 8 vote.

The king swore in Akhannouch’s 24-member government, which includes seven female ministers, Morocco’s state news agency MAP reported.

Nadia Alaoui, an ex-tourism minister, has been named the North African country’s first female finance minister.

Nasser Bourita has retained his post as foreign minister in the new government.

The government is made up of a coalition comprising PJD, the liberal Authenticity and Modernity Party, and the conservative Istiqlal (Independence) Party.

Islamist decline

The Islamist Justice and Development Party, which has been in power since 2011, won just 13 seats in Morocco's 395-seat parliament, plummeting from the 125 seats it held in the 2016 legislature.

The polls were Morocco's third legislative elections since the monarchy adopted constitutional reforms in response to the street protests that erupted during the 2011 Arab Spring.

Despite the changes, the king remains the most powerful person in the country and continues to make major decisions.

Congratulations from Madrid

Spain, whose relationship with Morocco is not in a good moment, responded with a message of congratulations to the announcement.

"The Government of Spain cordially congratulates the new Government of Morocco appointed by H.M. King Mohamed VI and chaired by the head of the government, Aziz Ajenuch, after the legislative elections on 8 September," Madrid said in a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The statement describes Morocco as a "strategic partner" and a "neighbor and friend country" with which Spain wishes to continue developing "exemplary and fruitful" cooperation that contributes to regional stability and prosperity.

Spain - the text reads - hopes to be able to work with the new Moroccan government "on the basis of trust, respect and mutual benefit."

Western Sahara, Ceuta

Relations between both countries were spoiled in spring following Madrid's decision to transfer the head of the Western Sahara secessionist movement, Brahim Ghali, to a Spanish hospital to be treated for Covid-19.

Rabat responded and put pressure on Spain by opening its border, allowing thousands of undocumented youth to pass through to the North African Spanish city of Ceuta.

At the moment, the date of the planned visit to Rabat by the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, has not yet been agreed.

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