Islamists tipped to win Moroccan parliamentary elections
Moroccans began voting Friday in the first parliamentary elections under a new constitution, with Islamists tipped to win, DPA reported.
More than 13 million people were eligible to vote in the poll, held nearly a year ahead of schedule.
It had been called by King Mohammed VI to start applying the new constitution reinforcing the powers of the prime minister, which was introduced partly to calm down Arab Spring protests, and approved in a July referendum.
Opinion polls are not carried out in Morocco, but many observers hedged their bets on the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which is currently the second-largest in parliament.
The largest is the nationalist Istiqlal, the party of Prime Minister Abbas el-Fassi, who has headed a five-party coalition government.
Another major challenger for the PJD was the Coalition for Democracy. The eight-party alliance includes the PAM, known as the "king's party", because its founder Fouad Ali Himma is a close friend of Mohammed VI.
The Moroccan elections were preceded by Islamist success in nearby Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in the wake of the Arab spring.
Tens of thousands of activists of Morocco's February 20 protest movement demonstrated ahead of the elections, urging citizens to boycott them.
Thirty-one parties wielded more than 7,000 candidates running for 395 seats in parliament.
Sixty of the seats will be reserved exclusively for women, and 30 seats for young people.
About 4,000 national and international observers were due to ensure transparency. The PJD, however, has expressed concern that the elections could be rigged to keep it out of power.