Moroccans go to the polls in an Arab Spring-inspired election that faces a boycott by democracy campaigners who say the ruling monarchy is not committed to real change. A moderate Islamist party and a pro-palace coalition are expected to do well in the voting, but a key test for the authorities’ legitimacy will be how many voters cast ballots. The result will be watched by Morocco’s US and other western allies, as well as European tourists who visit its beaches and resorts.
Morocco’s reputation as a stable democracy in North Africa has been damaged by this year’s protests. And its once-steady economy is creaking from the amount of money the government has pumped into raising salaries and subsidies to keep people calm amid the turmoil in the region.
The election campaign has been strangely subdued, unlike the lively politicking in nearby Tunisia when it held the first elections prompted by the Arab uprisings last month. In Morocco, posters and raucous rallies for candidates have been absent in the cities and instead there have been 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.