Morocco: Low Voter Turnout

The much-anticipated Moroccan parliamentary elections have finally come to a close, with surprising results. Although the Islamist PJD (Justice and Development Party) was expected to sweep the polls, the conservative Istiqlal (Independence) Party won 52 seats (the PJD won 47), leaving some to speculate upon the fairness of the voting (although Reuters Africa reports that the elections were quite orderly).

Yesterday, Global Voices Online's Francophone editor Jennifer Brea shared with us an interview with, a submission-driven photoblog dedicated to getting Moroccans to express their thoughts on politics. The site's organizers stated in the interview that few political parties in Morocco have managed to get the attention of the people and unfortunately, only an estimated 37% turned up on voting day.

Voting Graph - Moroccan Elections

Author Laila Lalami lamented her inability to vote:

By the way, even though I have dual Moroccan and American citizenships, and even though the constitution provides for the voting rights of MREs (or Moroccans Residing Abroad) I am not able to vote in these elections, because no procedures have been put in place for absentee ballots. Voters must be present at their precincts. More than 3 million Moroccans are thus excluded from the democratic experiment.

Agadir (fr) was disappointed in the lack of voter turnout:

Avant de nous aventurer dans des lectures zélées et des prédictions hasardeuses, une chose est sûre, le taux de participation n’a pas atteint les espérances de tous acteurs politiques. Jusqu’à hier soir à 18h, on parlait de 34% de taux de participation avec une estimation du Ministre de l’Intérieur allant jusqu’à 41% lors de la fermeture des bureaux de vote.

Before venturing into deep readings and hazardous predictions, one thing is for sure, the rate of participation did not reach the hopes of all of the political actors. Until yesterday evening at 18:00, a 34% rate of participation was spoken of, with an estimate from the Minister of the Interior reaching 41% at the time the polling stations closed.

shared the sentiment:

What I can see is that though the Moroccan government for the first time have put a big budget on advertising, turnout was bellow expectations as can be seen from the news. May be the cause of this is that there was “no real debates by either the government or the opposition”, and the parties’ platforms were “global and ambiguous” as Mohammed Tozy has suggested.

Agora (fr) speculates that perhaps the elections are only the first step:

Pour moi les enjeux sont ailleurs. Ils sont dans l'éducation -elle doit être revue de fond en comble-, la santé et la justice. Quand ces trois piliers de ce qu'on appelle “l'Etat moderne” seront réunis le reste suivra. Et les gens se déplaceront d'eux même pour voter sans qu'on ne les supplie pour le faire.

For me the stakes are elsewhere. They are in education – it must be re-examined from the basics – health and justice. When these three pillars of what is called “the modern State” are joined together the remainder will follow. And people will even be moved to vote without being begged to do it.

Blogger Selwa (fr) celebrated the PJD's non-victory:

- Contente que le PJD ne soit pas premier…Qui l'aurait dit…70 à 80 sièges ils pensaient avoir…Et beh!
Moralité de l'histoire: Il ne faut pas avoir les yeux plus gros que le ventre.

Satisfied that the PJD is not the winner…Who would've thought…70 to 80 seats they were thought to have…And beh! The moral of history: One should not have eyes larger than one's belly.

Finally, Eatbees offered highlights of the elections, summing up his thoughts on the whole thing:

Anyone who says this is a victory for Moroccan democracy has been smoking something. This was a victory for subtle, technocratic gaming of the system that gave the Makhzen exactly what it wanted, a free ride for five more years. I don’t see how this can be healthy in the long run, because the disillusionment bubbling beneath the surface is not going to go away, only now the safety valve is shut for five more years. The only other “winners” in this process are those who boycotted the elections altogether in order to discredit the system, since it will be hard for the powers that be to spin a 41% turnout as a vote of confidence.

Blogger Bill Day adds:

As Eatbees sees it, the only winner was the Palace.

For more blogger reactions to the elections in French, English, and Arabic, check out the Blogma Aggregator.

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