In a highly unusual move, Morocco's king has ousted the designated prime minister in an effort to settle a five-month deadlock over forming a new government. A surprise palace statement late Wednesday announced that King Mohammed VI had removed Abdelilah Benkirane, the head of the Islamist party that won last year's parliamentary elections, from his duties, the AP reports. "The king extolled, on several occasions, the designated prime minister to accelerate the creation of a new government," the statement said. The king is expected to name another member of the Party of Justice and Development to replace Benkirane.
Benkirane's party, the PJD, won the October election, but it didn't get enough seats to govern alone and has struggled to form a coalition with rival parties. The impasse has threatened to damage Morocco's reputation in the region for political stability after years of upheaval in the Arab world. While ultimate power in Morocco rests with the king, he rarely intervenes directly in forming a government. He did so this time, the palace said, "to overcome the current situation of immobility" and "in his constant concern for consolidating democratic choice." It was a big blow for Benkirane, who became prime minister after his moderate party won elections in 2011 for the first time in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.