Morocco's Islamist premier promises to continue with austerity despite opposition boycott

Morocco's embattled Islamist prime minister has sounded a defiant note before Parliament, promising to move forward with painful austerity measures.

Abdelilah Benkirane spoke before a half-empty chamber after opposition parties boycotted the session in an unprecedented change from the country's normally tame politics.

Benkirane promised Friday to press on with controversial reforms of subsidies and retirement benefits to reduce the mounting deficit. His main coalition partner, the Istiqlal Party, walked out of the governing alliance to protest the ambitious reforms.

The government now awaits the return of King Mohammed VI, the country's supreme authority, to decide its fate.

The IMF and international ratings agencies have recommended Morocco reduce spending on subsidies. The government suspended $1.75 billion in public spending in April to help balance the budget.