Moroccan premier defends decision on sole woman minister
RABAT - Morocco's Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on Thursday defended his decision to include only one woman in his 30-member cabinet, saying what counted was competence.
"There is no reason to be outraged," Benkirane told journalists after his first cabinet meeting. "I can assure you that there was no intention to exclude women from this government."
"What we need more than anything are competent people. Parties have tried (to find women politicians) but it's not easy," he said.
Bassima Hakkaoui, minister for solidarity, women, family and social development, is the only woman among the ministers named by King Mohammed VI on Tuesday.
Benkirane has been criticised, notably by women's associations, for his government's lack of female representation.
"As far as our (moderate Islamist Justice and Development) party is concerned there were 14 women candidates to become minister to start with. One has been considered. You see, it's not easy," he said.
The PJD is the first Islamist party to run the Arab world's oldest monarchy, with its 30-minister government including 24 new faces.
The party holds the largest number of portfolios in the new government with 12, including the justice ministry, formerly one of the "sovereign ministries" the monarch would hand to close aides not necessarily affiliated to any party.
The new coalition also includes the Istiqlal (Independence) party, which came second in November elections, as well as the liberal Popular Movement, of which the PJD was initially a splinter.
The Socialist Union of Popular Forces, founded by the iconic opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka, came third in the election but opted out of the coalition talks.
Benkirane's party claims its ideology is inspired by Turkey's eponymous ruling party, also cited by the new rulers of Tunisia and Libya.