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Signs of Life; Moroccans Prepare to Vote, or not, on Friday – by J. AbiNader

Party of Justice & Development (PJD) Campaign Poster in Sale, Morocco

This past weekend, the start of the last week of the campaign cycle of 15 days, was the first time I saw anything approaching what I would call a political rally. In Sale, across the river from Rabat, where pirates once ruled and the followers of the moderate Islamic Party of Justice and Development (PJD) are expected to prevail, dozens of party faithful marched through one of the town squares. Despite pouring rain most of the day, their enthusiasm seemed genuine. The next day, reportedly thousands marched in the larger cities calling for a boycott of the elections, arguing that they didn’t represent anything new in Moroccan politics.

And so the beat goes on…those who argue that change will not happen if people opt out of voting against those believe as strongly that the vote is meaningless as long as the King maintains veto power over key decisions and the political parties are nothing more than shadow supporters of the regime. There is a third tendency as well, mostly educated, older professional men and women who are determined to vote for secular parties to send a signal that Morocco can continue to move progressively albeit at a pace that does not disrupt stability and security. The parallels with the US elections, or anywhere else at the moment, cannot be overlooked.
While most characterize what is going on in the aftermath of Arab Spring events as essentially a call, if not a demand, to rewrite the social contract between rulers and citizens, the disquiet extends far beyond the shores of the Mediterranean. Whether one supports the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement, the essential principle seems to be how to take control back over one’s lives and restore the dignity of the community. It is ironic that elections, once trumpeted by US administrations as a herald of democratic behavior, have the potential to upstage decades of US foreign policy–a foreign policy that can be summarized as enabling countries to grow up to be like us…centrist, secular, focused on rule of law, and committed to justice and equality.
While history will likely judge that outcome, whether in the US or elsewhere, the elections in Morocco on Friday will send a signal: Will Morocco emerge more divided along lines that will only harden if reforms are subverted, or will the people stand and demand something better, something more humane, just, and equitable? There are of course variations in between these options; but to think that the elections in the Arab world, and in Europe, are somehow detached from our own is to have one’s head in the proverbial sand…

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