Manipulating election to contain Morocco’s Islamists may backfire


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On Friday, Oct. 7, Morocco will hold parliamentary elections that are an important barometer for the broader Middle East, since it is the only Arab country to organize regular elections with an acceptable level of competition among parties, notes Rabat-based political sociologist Mohammed Masbah, formerly a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. It is also the only Arab country where Islamists have gotten consistently better results at the ballot box without stoking domestic unrest and instability, he writes for World Politics Review:

Competitive elections in Morocco reflect the monarchy’s ostensible commitment to the political reforms ushered in by the new constitution passed in 2011, during the Arab Spring. That commitment is most evident in the behavior of the powerful Ministry of Interior, which in past elections manipulated ballot results to suit the palace, but has more recently backed away from such flagrant measures.

The lead-up to this year’s elections, though, demonstrates that tampering with the electoral process itself continues. This could deepen distrust in the political process and risk the monarchy’s reputation as a guarantor of Moroccan stability. Electoral manipulation is also a symptom of the palace’s failure to normalize relations fully with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or PJD, a moderate Islamist party that came to power with elections in 2011.

morocco voteThey will be the second set of legislative elections after the constitutional reform initiated by King Mohamed VI passed through a referendum in 2011, notes IFES:

On Election Day, citizens will vote for 395 members of the House of Representatives. According to the 2011 constitution, the Prime Minister, who replaced the King as head of government in 2011, is appointed by the King from the party that wins the majority of votes in the parliamentary elections. In recent years, the trend in the Moroccan political landscape has seen a coalition-building initiative between various parties to form majority blocs in the Parliament.

One law passed in 2011 dictated the terms and conditions for national and international election observation in Morocco. Civil society groups had wanted a law spelling out the rules, but some now fear it could be used to stifle criticism of the election process, AP adds.

“Election observation in Morocco has been taking place since 1997, but it was only in 2011 that the Moroccan MOROCCO HUMRTSgovernment instituted a clear, legal framework,” said Nadir Elmoumni, director of studies at the National Council of Human Rights.

The Federation of the Democratic Left (FGD) is campaigning for the October 7 poll under the slogan: “With us, another Morocco is possible,” Middle East Monitor reports:

In an interview with AFP, Nabila Mounib said her movement offers a “third way” between the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the liberal opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). “Those two parties don’t respond to the aspirations of Moroccans to establish a real democracy,” she said. “We position ourselves between them, and propose the way of genuine political reform via a separation of powers.”

But a new wave of radical left-wing parties in Morocco is growing, with emerging groups offering political alternatives to the main socialist party, which is in a state of decline, Al-Jazeera reports:

The rise of the far left comes after a dramatic fall in electoral support for the Socialist Union of Popular Forces Party (USFP), the country’s main leftist party and a genuine opposition force in the 1970s and ’80s, and amid the extreme fragmentation of Morocco’s left, exacerbated by ideological differences and diverse stances on issues such as the constitution, monarchy, elections, and social and economic reforms. The USFP used to pride itself on being the party of the educated and the urban. Its electoral base is now restricted to districts with high rates of illiteracy.

“Amid their tug of war, the palace has put considerable pressure on the PJD to try and weaken it,” adds Masbah. “The result of Friday’s election will determine the nature of their relationship going forward, and whether it will lead to a new chapter of greater cooperation or conflict.”


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