Low voter turnout in Moroccan elections despite reforms
Published Friday, November 25, 2011
By midday Friday, voter turnout in Morocco's parliamentary elections was low in Rabat and across the country despite official banners calling on Moroccans to "do their national duty.”
The voter turnout stood at 22.4 percent seven hours after the vote began, the interior ministry said.
"Moroccans feel that aside from the constitutional reform, nothing has really changed, meaning that the elections of 2011 will be a copy of the elections of 2007 and that is what will probably keep the participation low," said Abdellah Baha, deputy secretary general of the Islamist Justice and Development Party.
On the eve of election day, Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, a front-runner for prime minister, ruled out any coalition between his Rally of Independents and the Islamist Justice and Development Party.
Moroccans are voting in the first parliamentary elections since reforms were passed earlier in the year granting more powers to the parliament and prime minister.
The Islamist Justice and Development party is expected to perform well in the second elections in North Africa, while a rival coalition loyal to King Mohammed VI is also set to gain a significant share of the poll.
Overall 31 parties are vying for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament -- 70 more than during the last election in 2007.
The extra seats are reserved for women and young activists in a bid to give the assembly greater diversity.
The election comes after a July referendum approved an amended constitution by the king, which gives parliament a greater role in the legislative process and the prime minister more power.
The reforms do not go far enough, according to activists who have called for an election boycott to protest an "undemocratic constitution."
Zineb Belmkaddem, an activist with the February 20 opposition, told Al-Akhbar she is boycotting the elections because “they stem from an undemocratic constitution and include the same corrupt mafia running Morocco.”
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, AP, Reuters)