Paradoxically, some of the fiercest opposition to the PJD has come from its main coalition partner, the Istiqlal (Independence) Party, which has been a relentless critic of the Islamists since it elected a new leader, Hamid Chabat, in September.

In December, Chabat sent a memo to Benkirane demanding a Cabinet reshuffle and a greater role in decision-making for his party or he would pull out of the coalition. He accused the PJD of seeking to "Egyptianize" Morocco and rule with an unchallenged, dominant Islamist party.

The two party leaders patched up their differences in a meeting Feb. 15, but still ended up fielding competing candidates in by-elections two weeks later, in a continuing sign of their differences.

On Monday, Chabat again accused the Islamists of trying to monopolize the reform process, even as he made overtures to opposition parties, sparking rumors of a possible coalition reshuffle.

He also accused PJD ministers of "wanting to place their own people in all high level posts."

The PJD's Bouanou suggested that the Istiqlal's opposition stemmed from fears that if the Islamists succeeded in resolving some of the long-standing problems in the country, including corruption and a flawed justice system, it would make them unstoppable at the ballot box.

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AP reporter Smail Bellaouali contributed this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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