Is Morocco’s Get Out the Vote Appeal Working? by J. AbiNader

The government is working hard to encourage people to vote…these pictures are part of a television, radio, and print campaign that reaches into all corners of the country. Ironically, one of the strongest proponents of the GOTV campaign is the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD), which stands to make a strong showing in many urban areas of Morocco and rural regions that put conservative values and social services ahead of traditional local personalities.

In my discussions yesterday and today with women and men professionals of 30+ years, three themes emerged: too many young people were only interested in getting government jobs because of the security and safety net; Moroccans had little reason to believe that the new constitution would make a difference if many of the old faces turned up in the new Parliament; and maybe it wasn’t a bad thing if the PJD won the most votes because either a) they could really shake up the incumbent political culture of self-aggrandizement, or b) Moroccans would find out that the PJD was as useless as the current political parties.

There are few neutral areas for discussion. However, one stands out…a concern that the political horse-trading that is inevitable in a coalition government will deprive Morocco of some of its most capable ministers…technocrats who are providing the strongest leadership in the country today. As one would expect, there is no agreement on whether or not Moroccans are “ready” for more democracy, equated largely with making “smart” voting decisions and organizing for campaigns promoting government accountability, transparency, delivery of health and education services, and justice.

Another area of universal agreement is the inadequacies of the educational system. From dealing with the failure of the public system to the almost out of reach costs of a private education, my interlocutors insist that education and jobs must be the top priority of any new government. Since the people I spoke with attended both public and private schools, were university trained in Morocco and abroad, and have children who are now confronting the educational system, their words were not speculation or hearsay. When asked how the government could pay for effective educational reform and restructuring, including incentiving teachers and administrators, one engineer remarked that the money could come from not purchasing weapons because of regional competition for leadership.

 If the elections are as lively as these discussions, it will warm any democrat’s heart. It’s one week until the elections…and these interviewees see it as a countdown for Moroccans to chose for change or an eroding status quo.

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