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Parties who are perceived to be close to Morocco’s king have dealt a damaging blow to the long-ruling Islamists in parliamentary elections, preliminary results announced on Thursday have indicated.

The Justice and Development Party (PJD), which had headed the governing coalition for a decade, saw its support collapse from 125 seats in the outgoing assembly to just 12, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit told a press briefing after Wednesday’s vote.

Former prime minister and ex-PJD leader Abdelilha Benkirane had on Wednesday urged the current party boss Saad-Eddine El Othmani to resign and the latter later stepped down.

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The PJD was far behind its main rivals, the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), with 97 and 82 seats respectively, and the centre-right Istiqlal party with 78 in the 395-seat assembly.

The Istiqlal (Independence) party, Morocco’s oldest, made a remarkable comeback, adding 32 seats.

Africa Today News, New York reports that the RNI, which was a junior member of the governing coalition, is headed by billionaire businessman Aziz Akhannouch, described as close to the palace.

And the main opposition PAM was founded by the current royal adviser, Fouad Ali El Himma, in 2008.

Akhannouch on Thursday hailed ‘the popular will for change’, calling the results ‘a victory for democracy’.