Moroccan Elections: The King's Party Triumphs

Whilst world attention was focused on the fiercely fought presidential election in Iran, communal elections held in June 12 in Morocco attracted little notice by world media. The polls were officially hailed as crucial for the country's future and an important milestone in Morocco's protracted journey to democracy. Moroccan bloggers covered and commented the event, their hearts swaying between skepticism and full endorsement of the process.

Waiting for the King by Oh Mon Héros in Flickr

Waiting for the King by Oh Mon Héros! on Flickr

Thirty parties were competing for the votes of some 13 million Moroccans who were called on Friday to elect nearly 20,000 local councilors for terms of six years. Over 30,000 polling stations were opened across the country including in the southern provinces of Western Sahara. Early media reports were describing a low turnout and, apparently, very few young people came out to vote.

Blogger and activist Mounir Bensallah [Fr] encourages his readers to cast their votes. He published an appeal by an association linked to a party close to the power inciting voters to participate in the poll. The quote reads:

[I]ls nous appartient d’être vigilants, en effet loin de céder au sirènes toujours sonnantes de la démocratie inachevée, il nous faut nous rappeler que la démocratie n’est qu’un processus qu’il appartient a chacun d’entre nous de faire vivre et fructifier[…]

ceux qui nous assènent que les élections communales ne sont que le faire valoir des notables de chaque ville, nous leurs répondons que si l’on peut gouverner de loin, on ne peut administrer que de près, et que si le parlement peut voter des lois, seul al 3oumda (le Maire) les fait appliquer.

Alors peu importe pour qui l’on choisi de voter, l’important c’est de décider pour notre pays, pour notre avenir et celui de nos enfants.

We should indeed be vigilant and not surrender to the resounding sirens of our unachieved democracy and always remember that elections are only a process that we ought to breath life into and fructify[…]

To those who argue that these elections are only promotional platforms for city's notables, we say that if one can govern a state remotely, the country can only be administered locally, on the ground, and if parliament can indeed pass laws, only al-Oumda (the mayor) can bring them into life.

So no matter for whom we vote, the most important thing is to decide for our country, for our future and our children.

Threatened mainly by disaffection, municipal elections were described by international observers as a barometer; a mirror of communal political trends. The government fears mass abstention like the one that plagued legislative polls in 2007 when almost 65% of Moroccans didn't bother casting their vote.

Whilst the government announces a “51% turnout in those elections that took place in normal conditions, except for some minor incidents that did not affect the overall course of the polling” (source: MAP), some citizens ridiculed the process and complained about the relevance of a poll they deemed unfair. Badr al'Hamry blogging on Qalami[Ar], reports on a march that took place in the northern town of Nador where donkeys were symbolically paraded as fairer candidates worth voting for. He writes:

ان المسيرة الاحتجاجية التي شارك فيها حماران إلى جانب البشــر بمدينة الناظــور يوم الثلاثاء 03 يونيو، أقل ما يمكن ان يقال عنها أنها تحدثت بلسان حال تلك الجماعــة الحانقة مــن كل الخروقات التي عرفتها فترة ما قبل التصويت، و من المؤكد أنها قد عبرت عــن ما يخالج مشاعرها من أسى وتدمـر، نتيجة لمشاهد الفساد الذي تعرفه هذه الدورة الانتخابية كـاستعمال للمال لشراء الأصوات الانتخابية في غياب عين السلطات المسؤولة لردع هذا السلوك اللاقانوني.
The least that can be said about the protest in which two donkeys marched side by side with humans in the city of Nador on Tuesday 3 June, is that it spoke in the name of the commune in which it was held. The community suffered violations prior to the vote, and the protest has certainly expressed people's concerns and their distress as a result of the scenes of corruption they witnessed, like the use of money to buy votes while no authority intervened to deter such illegal behavior.

Early results seem to be confirming some bloggers’ concerns. Indeed, as announced by the interior ministry (the home affairs administration that runs the poll), “the results of 22,158 seats show that the freshly formed Modernity and Authenticity Party (PAM) has harvested most of the seats.” A party conspicuously linked to the royal palace -the king's party as it were- run by Fouad Ali El Himma, former classmate of the King Muhammad VI at the Royal College and whose parliament group has recently pulled out from the government coalition, in a move widely interpreted as a royal attempt to form a political group of his own.

Ibn Kafka [Fr] prolifically circumstantiates the creation of the -now almost certainly- victorious P.A.M. party. He describes how quickly the group became prominent, attracting…

… notables, politiques et célébrités des ONG comme le fumier attire les mouches.

… notables, politicians, celebrities involved with NGOs, like manure attracts flies.

Miloud E'shelh [Ar] describes electoral violations he came across. He enumerates 9 techniques used by cheating candidates:

1- خرق توقيت الحملة
2- تهديد المرشح
3- تزوير أوراق الاقتراع
4- تزوير الحبر
5- الاستيلاء على مكاتب التصويت
6- سرقة صناديق الاقتراع
7- إرشاء أو تهديد مراقبي الانتخابات
8- إتلاف أوراق الاقتراع عمدا
9- تأخير الإعلان عن نتائج الفرز
1 – breaching the timing of the campaign
2 – threatening opponents
3 – falsification of the ballot papers
4 – counterfeiting checking ink
5 – seizure of polling stations
6 – theft of ballot boxes
7 – bribing or threatening electoral observers
8 – deliberate destruction of ballot papers
9 – delaying announcement of vote counting results

Earlier this week, Larbi [fr] apprehended the outcome denouncing a lack of credibility and prospects. He deplores:

Peu d’enjeux politiques, une classe politique jugée inapte et inefficace, un jeu institutionnel se rapprochant d’un pouvoir absolu. Ce n’est une surprise pour personne : l’abstention s’est installée depuis longtemps dans le paysage politique marocain. Et comme si tout cela ne suffisait pas l’ami du roi, et la tragi-comédie qu’il avait jouée ces derniers mois, est venu détruire le peu de crédibilité qui restait à ces élections.

Little challenges, a political class deemed inept and ineffective, an institutional game tantamount to an absolute management of the power. This comes as no surprise to anybody: abstention settled long ago in the Moroccan political landscape. And as if all that were not enough, the friend of the king, and the tragi-comedy that he had played in recent months, came to destroy what little credibility was left in the elections.

Struggling to contain her disappointment and frustrations, Najlae [Fr] writes:

Je crois que je dois étrangler à jamais mon côté d'irréductible optimiste (sous des tonnes de cynisme) qui prend toujours le dessus. Car, que de déceptions! […] Mais entre les hystériques, les sauvages, les hystériques, les sauvages, les corrupteurs déclarés, les sauvages, les incompétents, les hystériques, les analphabètes de la vie, les sauvages, les bookmakers des élections et le reste, mon optimisme ferait bien d'aller mettre un bon niqab.

I think I'll have to strangle my irreducible optimistic side forever under the tons of cynicism that always end up taking over. What a disappointment! […] But between the hysterical, the brute, the hysterical, the brute, the conspicuous corruptors, the brute, the incompetent, the hysterical, the illiterate of life, the electoral bookmakers and the rest, my optimism would better put a Niqab (a face covering veil).

Finally, Larbi, sums up [Fr] what he believes is at stake. He writes:

Enjeu politique majeur que celui de dire stop à la domination et la main mise de la monarchie sur le système politique. Que celui de dire qu’après plus de quinze ans de « transition démocratique » , si chère aux communicants du Royaume, et alors qu’on en attendait une évolution des institutions vers une monarchie parlementaire, l’entrisme de l’ami du roi, […] constitue un grand bond en arrière.

The major political issue here [for voters] will be to say stop to the dominance and hegemony of the monarchy in the political system; to say that after more than fifteen years of “democratic transition”, a term so cherished by the communicators and spin doctors of the Kingdom -and while we expected a shift to a parliamentary monarchy- the entryism of the king's friend is a giant leap backward.


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