May 12, 2015 / 7:04 PM / in 2 years

Moroccan king to replace four ministers: statement

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco's king will replace four government ministers and has asked the country's prime minister for candidates for the posts, the royal cabinet said in statement carried by the state news agency MAP on Tuesday.

It is the second reshuffle in the Islamist-led government since 2011 elections following protests that prompted the North African kingdom to introduce limited reforms.

In 2013, King Mohammed named 19 new ministers after Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane reached a deal to form a new coalition. That weakened the premier's Justice and Development party, which won 107 seats in the 395-seat parliament.

Three of the ministers to be replaced - those in charge of parliament relations, higher education and for vocational training - had resigned, the statement said. The sports minister Mohamed Ouzzine was sacked last January after heavy rain flooded a soccer stadium and disrupted a Club World Cup quarter final.

The minister for relations with parliament El Habib Choubani, and the junior minister in charge of high education Somaia Benkhaldoun have been the favourite story of the local media in recent months because of their personal relationship.

"The decision has come to stop that ridiculous disturbance and prevent others from taking advantage of private lives," the Justice and Development party said in a statement released after the announcement.

Ministers in Morocco cannot resign directly but can ask the king to discharge them.

The delegate minister in charge of vocational training Abdeladim El Guerrouj was also accused by other political parties and local media of spending public money on private purchases of expensive chocolates.

While the constitution gives the government more power, the king still retains ultimate authority. The king managed to stifle the 2011 pro-democracy protests, which coincided with the wider Arab uprisings, by combining constitutional reforms, harsh policing and public spending.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Patrick Markey and Dominic Evans

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