Morocco is voting on Wednesday to renew the 395 seats in the House of Representatives and more than 31,000 local elected officials. The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) is hoping for a third term as head of government. Moroccans are expected to vote on Wednesday, September 8, in legislative and local elections that will determine the fate of the ruling PJD, even though it does not hold any strategic ministries.
The Justice and Development Party (PJD), a moderate Islamist party, has long been in opposition and is hoping for a third term as head of government.
It won a historic electoral success after the protests of the « February 20 Movement » – Morocco’s version of the 2011 Arab Spring – which called for an end to « corruption and despotism ».
Morocco is the only country in the region where Islamists have remained in power after popular uprisings in the Arab world, but decisions and directions in key sectors continue to come from initiatives by King Mohammed VI.
For the first time, nearly 18 million Moroccans are expected to vote on the same day to elect 395 deputies to the House of Representatives and more than 31,000 communal and regional officials. The reform aims to increase voter turnout, which had plateaued at 43 percent in the 2016 legislative poll.
New method of calculating the distribution of seats
This is also the first time since the first elections were held in Morocco in 1960 that the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives will be calculated on the basis of the number of registered voters and not the number of voters.
This new method of calculation should handicap the large parties, to the benefit of the small parties, but only the PJD is opposed to it, considering itself « wronged ».
If it achieves the same score as in 2016, the PJD would, according to estimates, obtain only 80 to 85 seats, compared to 125 at the time. This would complicate its task of forming a new government coalition in the event of victory.
With no major rallies due to the pandemic, the election campaign was dominated by a clash of three parties: the PJD, the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), the latter two liberal parties, amid accusations of candidate and vote buying.
The PJD denounced the « massive » use of money, without naming any party. But the number one of the PAM, Abdellatif Ouahbi, accused the RNI, led by wealthy businessman Aziz Akhannouch, described as close to the Royal Palace, of « flooding the political scene with money.
Accusations « categorically rejected » by the accused party, which had played a key role in the formation of the government in 2016 by imposing its conditions, after a political crisis of several months that weakened the PJD.
But the former head of government and former secretary general of the PJD Abdelilah Benkirane, who is still influential, returned to the charge on Sunday, taking a shot at Aziz Akhannouch in a video posted on Facebook.
« The presidency of the government needs a political personality with integrity around whom there are no suspicions, » he said, blaming the head of the RNI for having « no culture, no ideology, no historical background, no political party either.
The other favourite in the poll is the PAM, the main opposition party founded by the current royal advisor Fouad Ali El Himma in 2008, before he resigned in 2011. Relations between this party and the islamists, which have long been conflictual, have recently calmed down.
In the absence of opinion polls, local media estimates also point to the chances of the opposition Istiqlal Party.
However, the electoral contest is characterized by a lack of clear polarization on policy choices. Regardless of the outcome of the next election, all political parties are expected to adopt a charter, stemming from the « new development model », which prefigures a « new generation of reforms and projects », as Mohammed VI recently indicated.
This model, designed by a commission appointed by the king, outlines several ways to reduce the country’s deep social disparities and double per capita GDP.
a new constitution adopted in 2011 has given broad prerogatives to parliament and the government, but in practice, major decisions in strategic areas such as agriculture, energy and industry are made by the monarch, regardless of changes in the executive.