Voting in Morocco last week was largely free and fair, the country’s election observer body said Sunday, but it is investigating some cases of vote-buying and expressed concern about low turnout. The moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development won Friday’s legislative election, beating out a party with close ties to the royal palace after an unusually hostile campaign. The PJD, which has led a coalition government since it first won elections in 2011 on a wave of Arab Spring protests, is now working on building a new coalition with rival parties. The Interior Ministry said the PJD won 125 of the 395 seats in the Chamber of Representatives, while the Party of Authenticity and Modernity, founded by an adviser to the king, came second with 102 seats.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Morocco.
Morocco’s moderate Islamists have won parliamentary elections, beating a rival party critics say is too close to the royal palace in a tight race that will complicate negotiations to form a coalition government. The government has only limited powers, but Friday’s ballot for the House of Representatives was a test for the constitutional monarchy five years after Mohammed VI devolved some authority to ease protests for democratic change. After five years in government, the Justice and Development Party (PJD) won 125 seats while the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) party took 102, according to final results announced by the interior minister on Saturday. The conservative Istiqlal party took 46 seats.
On Friday, Morocco will hold its second parliamentary elections since the constitutional changes that followed the Arab Spring protests led by the Feb. 20 movement in 2011. The Party of Justice and Development (PJD), a moderate Islamist-oriented party which has led a coalition government since then, seeks to defend its lead against its chief rival, the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, a close friend and adviser to King Mohammed VI. What’s at stake in this battle? The short answer: not much. There are good reasons to be skeptical that the outcome of the election will alter the political landscape in a meaningful way. Political science wisdom on democratic institutions sheds light on the limitations that confront all political parties in Morocco, whether they gain or lose seats in this week’s elections. Approximately 30 parties compete for the parliament’s 395 seats, 90 of which are reserved for women and candidates under 40. The number of parties complicates alliance formation: To create a coalition, the leading party must bring together parties with differing priorities and constituencies, which is no easy task. Competition weakens parties’ ability to present unified policies.
Morocco heads to the polls Friday, and yet there is hardly any trace of the looming general election in the sprawling port city of three million. Campaign posters are few and far between, restricted to authorised locations. A handful of campaigners go door-to-door, canvassing for the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), which hopes to oust the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (PJD). The local branch of Istiqlal, one of Morocco’s oldest parties, is eerily deserted. The apparently muted campaign reflects widespread disillusion with political parties in a country where the monarchy still wields considerable power and low turnout rates are common. During the last election in 2011, 55% of eligible voters failed to cast their ballots. The previous vote, in 2008, saw abstention reach 63%.
Moroccan authorities said on Tuesday they had foiled a planned suicide attack on Oct. 7 parliamentary elections after the arrest of a suspected Islamic State militant cell of 10 women earlier this week. The Interior Ministry said on Monday that for the first time a group of female suspects had been arrested, the latest in series of militant cells the North African kingdom says it has broken up. Morocco is holding a parliamentary election on Friday in which the Islamist PJD party is favored to win after five years leading the ruling coalition in a constitutional monarchy where the king remains the ultimate authority. “One of the women was seeking more visibility and was planning an operation on the election day,” Abdelhak Khayyam, head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), the judicial arm of the domestic intelligence service, told reporters in Rabat. “It was a suicide attack and we found bomb-making materials,” he said, without giving further details.
Tensions have erupted between Morocco’s royal establishment and the Islamist ruling party, with the Islamist justice minister complaining of “weird” goings-on in the run-up to a parliamentary election next month. Mustapha Ramid accused his government colleague Mohammed Hassad, a technocrat appointed by the royal palace as interior minister, of monopolizing decisions on organizing the election and failing to consult with the justice ministry. Unlike rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya who were overthrown in Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, Morocco’s King Mohamed rode out popular protests while ceding some authority to the government, which has been led for the past five years by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). But the coming election is straining the delicate political balance in the country of 34 million people by exacerbating divisions between the palace and the PJD.
Morocco’s elections next month will draw attention from around the region and beyond — but not all eyes will be welcome. Election authorities approved 4,000 national and international observers for the Oct. 7 legislative elections, rejecting requests for about 1,000 others, as new regulations on vote monitors are being put to the test. Among those rejected were observers from the U.S.-based Carter Center. More than 30 political parties are running in the elections, which will determine the makeup of the government and political direction of the kingdom, a U.S. ally and important regional economy. It’s only the second time Moroccans are voting for parliament since thousands took to the streets in 2011 demanding reform through the February 20th Movement. Since then, a coalition of several parties led by the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) has governed, coming to power alongside a new constitution and new laws intended to meet the demands for reform.
In the context of the struggle between the waves of revolution and counter-revolution in the MENA region Morocco witnessed local and regional elections this week, the first after the constitution amendments of 2011. The elections, held on 4 September, are also the first since 2011 in which political actors agreed on a final version of the regionalisation project, whereby each of the country’s 12 regions will be led by an elected council with wide economic, human, infrastructural, environmental and cultural development capacities. In a sense, the 2015 elections mark another step in the post-Arab spring Morocco and another opportunity to examine the outcome of the country’s “reform under stability” paradigm. The lesson for Morocco is that the potential failure of the paradigm will immediately tarnish the whole diplomatic, political and reform effort that started in 2011. In the run up to the elections, Morocco feared that foreign pressure would restrict the participation of Islamists in a free and fair way. That pressure was eventually diminished through a tandem of internal and external factors; while the former manifested itself in governmental reforms, the latter included the change in the Saudi leadership, the eruption of the war in Yemen and the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. These events pushed local actors to shift the focus away from curbing the outcome of the Arab Spring, especially since attempts to smother the post-Arab Spring nascent democracies has generated chaos across the region. The difficult lesson of the past four years has been that it is despotism that threatens stability in the region, not respecting public will.
Volunteers were knocking on doors in the residential neighbourhood of Agdal in Rabat on Wednesday to drum up votes amid a political malaise that has gripped the country in recent years. The volunteers were members of the Democratic Leftist Federation, a coalition of groups headed by Nabila Mounib, leader of the Unified Socialist Party, running a campaign called “vivre ensemble”, or live together. “We abandoned politics because we didn’t trust anyone any more and we didn’t think elections could make a difference,” said Fouzia El Hamidi, 60, a member of the federation who wore a white shirt bearing the image of the yellow envelope symbol that represented the coalition. “We are running a campaign of transparency and honesty.” On Friday, Moroccans go to the polls to choose among 300,000 candidates from 36 parties for their local representatives. Among the frontrunners are the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which leads the country’s coalition government, and the Authenticity and Modernity Party, a group close to King Mohammed VI.
It should be a moment of excitement: Moroccans are choosing a parliament in elections Friday prompted by the Arab Spring’s clamor for freedom. Yet there are few signs here that elections are even taking place. Posters and raucous rallies for candidates are absent in the cities and instead there are just stark official banners urging citizens to “do their national duty” and “participate in the change the country is undergoing.”
“The parties have presented the same people for the past 30 years, the least they could do is change their candidates,” said Hassan Rafiq, a vegetable vendor in the capital Rabat, who said he didn’t plan to vote. Like elsewhere in the Arab world, Moroccans hit the streets in the first half of 2011 calling for more democracy, and King Mohammed VI responded by amending the constitution and bringing forward elections. But since then the sense of change has dissipated.