Morocco Unveils New Government

Rabat — After nearly three months of negotiations, Morocco has a new cabinet.

King Mohammed VI on Thursday (October 10th) announced Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's line-up, which increases the number of ministerial portfolios from 30 to 38.

The move aimed at including members of the new Morocco coalition member, the National Rally of Independents (RNI).

Most ministers have kept their previous jobs within the government, but some have been put in charge of different departments.

Major changes include the replacement of Saadeddine El Othmani as foreign minister by RNI leader Salaheddine Mezouar, and the appointment of the technocrat Mohamed Hassad as interior minister instead of Mohand Laenser.

Mohamed Boussaid, a former tourism minister and governor, will take over the economy and finance ministry.

The RNI now has a monopoly over economic affairs, as it also controls the portfolios of industry and trade, external commerce, and small enterprises and integration of the informal sector.

Technocrats also took the national education ministry, a strategically important department with many social issues.

Mohamed El Ouafa, who previously ran this department and rebelled against his party, Istiqlal, by refusing to resign, has remained in the cabinet as general affairs and governance minister.

Women are also more strongly represented in the new cabinet.

The last cabinet had one female minister. Now there are six, including four from the RNI.

Women now hold the crafts and social economy ministry, in addition to deputy positions for foreign affairs, higher education, environment and water. Solidarity Minister Bassima Hakkaoui retains her position.

The reshuffled cabinet faces many challenges. The first is the issue of unity between the constituent parts of the coalition, which the previous government lacked.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane will need to work with all parties in the new coalition to prevent a recurrence of the crisis that led the Istiqlal Party withdrawal from government, political analyst Ahmed Chentoufi told Magharebia.

Major tasks await the government, he noted, including reform of the Subsidisation Fund and pensions system, passing organic laws to implement the Constitution, and the thorny issue of youth employment.

The leader of the RNI has given assurances on this point.

"The RNI's mission is to strengthen the harmony of the coalition and to enhance the government's work by redefining its priorities," Salaheddine Mezouar said.

"The government must live up to the expectations of the public, especially young people, and bridge social gaps," the RNI chief added.

For his part, Benkirane said the reshuffle aimed to step up the pace of the government's work, adding that all the ministers were determined to keep working until the desired goals have been achieved.

Many citizens voiced relief that the political wrangling had ended, but raised questions about some measures.

Student Hamid Marame said he was amazed at the increase in the number of ministers, "given that the prime minister has repeatedly claimed to be in favour of reining in expenditure".

Hamza Razi, a 29-year-old employee, said, "It seems the negotiations focused more on obtaining the maximum number of ministerial portfolios."

"The coming days will indicate whether this reshuffle will improve the way the government operates," he said.

"The public wants to see concrete results in terms of employment and maintaining spending power. The social side of things must take priority," Razi added.