Moroccans vote for new parliament

Voters in Morocco are going to the polls to elect a new parliament, with 33 parties competing for seats.

For the elections in Morocco, there seems to be little interest in it from a large proportion in the country at least during the parties’ campaigns, especially in cities. Some independent press has been waging campaigns against the validity of the elections due to the government failure to implement many of its electoral projects on the ground. The voters are mainly disappointed in the elected MPs in the last parliament who had little contact with the voters. They accuse them of seeking just their own interests and the interests of their relatives and those closely associated with their parties.

The promises outgoing MPs made to the voters like eradicating poverty and unemployment weren’t met to a large extent. Although Morocco has become more democratic compared to past years through relatively free press and the formation of associations and new parties, many voters feel unconcerned because they want democratic changes to affect their lives positively.

For the voters to stream to polling stations, elected MPs should have regular contact with them throughout the period they’re in parliament. Voters complain that they lose sight of their MPs once elected and they don’t show up until the next election campaigns.

The Islamic party PJD is poised to have a large victory in Morocco. Many voters are trying their luck with it because they got disappointed with the parties many of whose members had been jailed political dissidents. When they took power, they weren’t up to the expectations concerning social reforms. There is a rise in the cost of living despite huge infrastructure projects, foreign investment and the lowering of Morocco’s foreign debts, now around $10 billion dollars instead of $17 billion ten years ago. But what is ironic about PJD party is that its leader Saad Othmani has declared on many occasions that it doesn’t seek to be in government but as many seats in parliament as possible to form a strong opposition.

There is the question of whether there should be a constitutional change in Morocco, giving more power to the elected government while curbing the power of the king. In the case of Morocco, politicians aren’t yet accustomed to this type of government. Fundamental constitutional change will take time as this needs a political class that should put the country as a priority and not to use its power for personal gain. Currently elected representatives at the local councils and parliament are accused of pursuing just their personal interests. Many hold a seat because of their money and not political programmes or success. Having a government with sweeping powers but with inefficient elected MPs and local councils will just lead to political instability. As such, key power should rest in the hand of the King at least to ensure stability and for him to continue as a unifying force in the country.

Up to now, key powers are in the hands of the King like foreign policy, the defence. The military is accountable to the King who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. One thing is for sure, the king will continue to exercise his power as he has stated this on many occasions. Generally, at least, ordinary people believe in him. The government can be unpopular. But he still receives popular support even among the poor who are willing to come out to welcome him when visiting their areas. For the current problems facing Morocco, people blame the elected MPs, local councils and the government. They proved inefficient with the current power bestowed on them. It can be risky to give them full power as in Western constitutional monarchies.

The big disappointment for the Moroccans was in progressive parties that had been in opposition for decades. When they came to power in 1997, they were below the expectations of the voters who thought that with them poverty, unemployment and corruption would be a matter of the past. They seem to have lost faith in any political party shown by the expected low turn-out, especially in the big cities and despite the lowering of voting age to have as many voters as possible. As such the king will continue to hold key powers. The powers political parties should currently have is to have positive influence on the voters. By being negative on many levels, there will be a total breakup between them and the voters, with very few people to vote for them, making any election null and void. And as such Morocco will have just a government of technocrats.

Listen to BBC WHYS show on elections in Morocco2007 in which Prince Hicham of Morocco, cousin of King Mohammed VI took part.

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Here is an interview by Prince Hicham on al Jazeera:

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