Moroccans voted Friday in elections expected to result in gains for the main opposition Islamist party. The Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has vowed to take on corruption, could become the largest single party.
According to AFP, the electoral system allows none of the 33 competing parties to get a ruling majority, and no mainstream party wants to link up with the PJD. However, PJD secretary general Saad Eddine Othmani still projects that his party will win at least one million of the 15.5 million eligible votes and at least 70 seats in the 325-deputy chamber. Formed in the late 1990s from several Islamist strands, the PJD rose to prominence in the last parliamentary elections in 2002 and hopes to double its current 42 seats.
Polls opened at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) and were scheduled to close at 7:00pm, with a definitive result expected to be announced on Sunday.
Ahead of Friday's poll, Othmani took pains to reassure Morocco's foreign allies by telling the French weekly magazine Pelerin: "I'm a Muslim Democrat just as others in Europe are Christian Democrats." "Modernity is not contradictory with a Muslim identity," he said.
"We're not fundamentalists. We play a role against extremists since we give a hope to the most deprived people who no longer have confidence in political institutions and parties."