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How the entrepreneur Aziz Akhannouch succeeded in his takeover bid on the Moroccan executive

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It was a smooth operation, by far. The putting into orbit towards the summits of Moroccan politics of the wealthy businessman Aziz Akhannouch, 60, whose party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), won the legislative elections of Wednesday, September 8, owes nothing to chance. The man’s mission was to dislodge the “notabilised” Islamists of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) from the head of government – detained since 2011. He will have succeeded beyond all hope. Because not only the RNI, an old-fashioned party close to the palace which it has dusted off to make it an electoral machine, comes first by removing 102 of the 395 seats in the Assembly, but the PJD, demonetized in the eyes of its base by its compromises in power, literally collapsed, its capital of seats melting from 125 to 13. The RNI of Akhannouch even made a triple blow: it also wins hands down the municipal and regional elections, organized on the same day.

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Logically, Mr. Akhannouch should become the next Prime Minister of Morocco since, according to the Constitution revised in the wake of the “Movement of February 20” 2011 – the Moroccan version of the “Arab Spring” -, the king chooses the head of government within the party that won the legislative ballot. However, the case is not yet official. And even if Mohammed VI would name another figure of the party, Mr. Akhannouch would nonetheless remain the strong man of the new executive, undisputed architect of this electoral conquest carried out as a corporate takeover bid.

“National Champions”

Because the new star of Moroccan politics is above all an entrepreneur, even if he owes the same status first to rentier capitalism and collusion as it thrives in Morocco in the orbit of the palace. First private fortune in the country according to the magazine Forbes, Built on the distribution of hydrocarbons before extending to real estate and the media, Mr. Akhannouch is an heir. He took up the torch from his father, Oulhaj Akhannouch, a small gasoline distributor in the 1930s in Casablanca, who became a funder of the nationalist movement. Its business took off after independence in 1956 around the Afriquia service stations. The son made it the basis of his future conglomerate Akwa Group, which he built on in the 1990s, upon his return from Quebec, where he obtained an MBA. Evil tongues whispered that his proximity to the strongman of the palace at the time, the much feared Minister of the Interior Driss Basri, was not foreign to the prosperity of his business.

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