Rabat, Morocco – Election campaigning started officially on Saturday, Nov 12 for the Nov 25 parliamentary elections. ..a short and merciful two weeks for voters to get to know the candidates and issues. Based on some quick observations while criss-crossing the capital Rabat for meetings, it seems that one has to go into the neighborhoods to find any excitement about voting. These flyers are the first signs I’ve seen of electioneering. Plagued by a low turnout in 2007, the political parties and the government are working hard to get out the vote: using TV ads, door to door canvassing, pleas from party leaders, and old fashioned campaign paraphernalia.
The government has released figures showing that more than 87% of the candidates on the local level are “new” faces, which means the holdovers from previous Parliaments and party leaders are heading up the national lists for the parties, a dual system inherited from the French that makes it virtually impossible to have a majority from a single party. Whether or not this makes it easier for the Justice and Development Party (PJD), with its moderate Islamic platform of social services, anti-corruption, and greater government accountability to become the single largest party, is the focal point for the media and almost every conversation I’ve had with Moroccans.
There is a great deal of ire and disappointment directed at the political parties with very little sympathy for their excuses about the short period of time between the adoption of the new constitution on July 1 and the elections next week. As one colleague said, “They’ve had 20 years to stand for something…and since I won’t vote for the PJD, I’m just staying home.” That is the biggest concern of the government and the international observers…achieving a 50+% turnout is seen as the minimum vote of confidence in whether or not political reform is a realistic agenda in Morocco.