Morocco's ruling Islamists have suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the liberals in the country's parliamentary elections, ending their 10 years in power in the North African kingdom.
Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit announced the results with 96 per cent of the votes counted, Morocco's official news agency MAP reported on Thursday.
The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has been in power since 2011, won just 12 seats in the country's 395-seat parliament, plummeting from the 125 seats it got in the 2016 parliament.
The PJD's liberal rival, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), won 97 seats to become the largest party in parliament.
The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) came in second, winning 82 seats to retain its position as the second biggest party, despite winning fewer seats than in the last parliament.
The conservative Independence Party came third, winning 78 seats.
Several other parties also won more seats than the Islamists, who have lead government coalitions since 2011. The PJD got the 8th place.
Following recent electoral changes in Morocco, this was the first time parliamentary and local elections were held on the same day in an attempt to boost voter turnout.
Laftit said 50 per cent of the nearly 18 million eligible voters cast their ballots, a marked improvement on the 43 per cent turnout in 2016.
A powerful monarch
The polls are 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, King Mohammed VI remains the most powerful person in the country and continues to take most major political decisions himself.
Analysts have suggested the reason behind PJD's defeat is the recent amendments introduced to the electoral law. They included allocating seats based on the number of registered voters rather than valid ballots.
Late Wednesday, PJD’s general secretary and outgoing Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani did not comment on the results, but criticized some violations during the voting process.
Aziz Rabah, a politician and PJD member, described the results as “catastrophic” and blamed his party’s defeat on what he said was a “vague” electoral process.