The official campaign for the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 25th was launched on November 12th. The campaign has been particularly low-key at a local level, but there have been large, peaceful, demonstrations, particularly in Casablanca.
Morocco’s pro-democracy activists threaten to boycott the legislative elections in which voter turnout is seen as critical to reforms made by King Mohammed VI in wake of the Arab Spring.
BOYCOTT OR APATHY?
The protestors' call for a boycott of the election may have some impact in further lowering the participation rate. If recent history is any guide, the voter turn-out may well be low, not withstanding the boycott call. The last Parliamentary elections took place in 2007 and only 37% of Moroccans voted as many saw little point in voting for a body that they say has few real powers.
There has been little outward sign on the streets, such as campaign posters, to show that elections are imminent. In Fez, for example, even the main election poster sites, displayed only one or two party candidates.
|Plenty of space for party posters|
These elections come less than five months after the referendum for a new Constitution proposed by the King Mohamed VI in a bid to avoid the social upheaval that reached neighbouring North African countries (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya).
The new Constitution strengthens powers of the Parliament and of the Prime Minister. However, the “February 20 Movement” pro-democracy activists are not convinced that this political move will lead to the deep political changes they have been calling for.
|Photo - Al Arabiya|
Morocco has a bicameral Parliament (Barlaman) consisting of the Chamber of Counselors (Majlis al-Mustacharin) and the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwab).
The upcoming vote is for the Chamber of Representatives (the lower house of parliament), which is elected for a five-year term. The upper house, the Chamber of Counsellors, with 270 seats is elected indirectly by local councils, professional organizations and trade unions for nine-year terms, is not involved in this election.
The Chamber of Representatives has 395 members, 305 of whom are elected in 92 multi-seat constituencies from electoral lists put together by the parties.
Under the "closed-list" system, voters can only chose between the party lists, and cannot modify the order of candidates on them.
Of the remaining 90 seats, 60 are reserved for a national list of women. A further 30 seats are newly earmarked for candidates under the age of 35, in a move widely seen as a concession to the largely youthful pro-democracy activists.
About 13.6 million Moroccans have registered to vote.
The vote will be monitored by 4,000 observers (accredited by the electoral authorities) from 16 Moroccan and foreign bodies.
THE MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES
Istiqlal (Independence) Party - The party was founded in the 1940s as the main opposition to French rule over Morocco, the centre-right Istiqlal is one of the country's oldest parties. It has been a member of numerous government coalitions in the past few decades, having softened its traditionally critical stance towards the monarchy.
The party leader is the Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who has headed a five-party coalition government since the party become the largest in parliament at the last elections with 52 seats.
Justice and Development Party (PJD) - The largest moderate Islamist force, and won 46 seats to become the second largest party in parliament at the last elections. Modelling itself on Turkey's Islamist-derived governing party of the same name, the PJD is widely tipped to make further gains this time around, following the victory of the similar Ennahda party in Tunisia's elections.
The party leader Abdelillah Benkirane has said his party is "ready for the responsibility of government".
Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) - The main centre-left force. The USFP is currently a member of the government. Formed in the 1970s, it is, along with the rest of Morocco's left, widely seen as a fading force. The party won 38 seats in the last elections, down from 50 five years before. In the run-up to the 25 November poll it has cooperated closely with two smaller centre-left parties - including another member of the governing coalition, the Party for Progress and Socialism (PSS - 17 seats) - in a bid to revive the left's fortunes.
The party leader is Abdelouahed Radi.
Alliance for Democracy
The Alliance for Democracy, a loose eight-party pro-monarchy electoral bloc, was formed on 5 October in a move widely seen as aimed at countering the predicted rise of the PJD. It includes two of the current five governing parties - the centre-right liberal Popular Movement, which won 41 seats in the last parliamentary polls, and the royalist National Rally of Independents, which won 39.
Also part of the alliance is the Party of Authenticity and Modernity, which was founded in 2008 - a year after the last elections - by one of the king's right-hand men, Fouad Ali al-Himma. It subsequently won 19% in local elections, prompting speculation that it might become a significant new force in Moroccan politics. It says it wants to avoid the "Balkanisation" of Morocco's already fractious political landscape.
Some travel websites are posting a travel advisory warning saying that... people currently in Morocco or planning to travel to the country in coming days are advised to avoid places where demonstrations could occur (city-centres, areas near governmental buildings). Avoid all public gatherings as they may turn violent at short notice. Travellers should monitor local and international media in order to get updated information. Avoid the poll stations during the elections. Local feeling is that this advice is an over-reaction and point out that foreign visitors are not the target of protests.