Morocco's king names new Islamist-led government: state news agency

King Mohammed VI of Morocco reviews a guard of honour at the National palace during his state visit to Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

RABAT (Reuters) - After six months of post-election deadlock, Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Wednesday named a new cabinet led by the main Islamist party, which lost a key ministry in negotiations with rivals, the state news agency MAP said.

The Islamist Justice and Development (PJD) party won elections in October, but the formation of a government was delayed during negotiations with parties who critics say were too close to royalists uneasy with sharing power with Islamists.

Under Moroccan law no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king holds ultimate power despite ceding some authority during protests for reforms in 2011.

The PJD's Saad Eddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, was appointed premier last month by the king to replace PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane, after his efforts to form a government had been frustrated.

The new cabinet includes members from six political parties.

The PJD, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Popular Movement (MP), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) were in the last government.

Also part of the new cabinet are the Constitutional Union (UC) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), whose participation had become a source of conflict between Islamists and rival RNI party, led by a close friend of the king.

Several key ministerial portfolios remain unchanged and under the control of the RNI, which clashed with the PJD during party talks over its insistence on including the USFP in the coalition, the MAP agency said. The PJD had resisted under Benkirane's leadership.

Aziz Akhannouch, RNI leader and close friend of the king, remains Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. RNI members Mohammed Boussaid and Moulay Hafid Elalamy remain heads of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Trade and Industry, respectively.

But the PJD lost its control of the key Ministry of Justice and Public Freedoms, previously led by Mustafa Ramid, who had been critical of the security service's record during his days as a lawyer and human right activist.

As Minister of Justice since 2012, Ramid spearheaded a series of reforms after the PJD had won elections in 2011 amid protests inspired by the Arab uprisings across the region. He will remain as Minister of State in charge of human rights.

After the 2011 protests, the king ceded some powers.

Critics say that since then royalists have tried to push back Islamist influence. Dismissing claims of royal interference, the palace says the king maintains an equal distance from all parties.

At the heart of the months-long political crisis were questions about the future and direction of the PJD, the region's last remaining Islamist party in power after the Arab Spring, and its relations with the palace.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Bolton)