September 07, 2007
Rock-bottom turnout in Morocco's general elections
According to official estimates just in, just about 41% of Morocco's 15 million registered voters bothered to vote (and you should know that only 79% of potential voters did register) in the general elections to the Moroccan Chamber of Representatives.
This is no stunning surprise to anyone who's lived through the apathetic election campaign the last few days. Living in Rabat and voting in Casablanca, I met with campaign teams only once - the PJD, and have had trouble finding the different parties' leaflets - some of them are posted here, more will be forthcoming. My father-in-law, an avid newspaper reader and a regular mosque visiter, couldn't be bothered to vote, even for the PJD. My wife, her mother or her sisters didn't care either. Many at work didn't bother. Hadn't it been for all these leaflets littering some parts of town, you wouldn't have noticed that an elections was going on.
Many editorialists, among them French-speaking and secular Tel Quel's editor, Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, had previously underlined the shallowness of the elections, since most powers are concentrated into the King's hands. Ordinary voters had already grasped this. Even American experts predicted such an outcome.
The only ones dumbfounded would seem to be the few francophone intellectuals, NGO leaders and academics whom I've had the displeasure to hear on Moroccan radio tonight - they either blamed the voters or the parties (they gleefully noted that the PJD wasn't such a threat to modern civilisation as we know it as they previously feared), but not one of them had anything to say on the unbalanced balance of power, the major contributing factor to public dissatisfaction with elections. In fact, I was surprised to hear, on the private Atlantic radio station streetwalk interviews during the past week where voters openly said that they didn't see any point in voting, referring to the King.
Such a low turnout will of course affect the parties' claim to the premiership, which had already been denied to them in 2002 - current prime minister, Driss Jettou, has no political affiliation and has never been elected to any public office, a very fitting profile under Morocco's current system (but he has quite a good reputation, being hard-working, unassuming and honest, rare qualities in Morocco's political circles). My bet is on former deputy interior minister Fouad Ali El Himma, the King's closest personal friend, due to be elected in the Rhamna constituency without party affiliation. His nomination could be presented as a way to renew the political scene - which it will of course be very far from doing. It would on the contrary mark an even sharper turn to the increasing concentration of power in the hands of the King and his close circle of royal advisors - les conseillers du Roi - and trusted high officials. Not to mention the blow it will land on the Kingdom's so-called democratic credentials, a vital prerequisite for the extensive economic and diplomatic support Morocco enjoys from its largest Western partners - the US, France, Spain and the EU.
For further comments en français, see here.
Posted by Ibn Kafka at September 7, 2007 08:05 PM
Filed Under: North Africa
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Hmmm, well actually I would call this probably the best possible result given political reality.
Enough proper election to be real, weak enough to generate reasonable but not panicked international pressure on the Makhzen for reforms, strong enough for the King not to panic.
Why it's just like your perfect porridge. Not particularly interesting to eat, but a good enough start for the day.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 8, 2007 08:49 AM
What worries me is the PJD's poor result coupled with the low turnout and how the King will handle the aftermath. The PJD's poor result (only a few seats more than in 2002) is neither good nor bad in itself, but coupled with the low turnout (a high turnout and a low PJD score would have had altogether another effect) it will weaken the hand of its moderate leadership, and probably reinforce the Mustapha Ramid/Ahmed Raïssouni wing of the party. My fear is that for the coming years, the opposition will take to the streets, the parliamentary way apparently being no way to reform power in Morocco's current constitutional system.
If the King's buddy Fouad Ali el Himma is designated prime minister, a risk heightened by the low turnout - no party can claim a strong popular mandate for itself - then I think that political opposition to the government could take a nasty turn, but I certainly hope I'm wrong on this.
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at September 8, 2007 09:05 AM
That's a very good point, I confess to not having paid close attention to supposed results.
I hope you're wrong as well. Or they get a better result than initial reports.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 8, 2007 11:54 AM