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Morocco Elections: Success in Crossing the Threshold

Rabat, Morocco --- November 26, 2011 ... Initial results, as announced by Morocco Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui, indicate that voters’ turnout in the 2011 parliamentary elections stood at around 45% nationwide. This turnout thus exceeds the magic 37% of the 2007 parliamentary elections. 

Data collected and analyzed by the Moroccan Interior Ministry pointed out to a building voters’ momentum toward the closing of the elections. Voting started slow. By noontime, voter turnout stood at 11.5%. However, by 3pm (15:00 GMT) , voter turnout stood at 22.4%, and at 5 p.m. (17:00 GMT), voter turnout reached 34%. By 7 p.m. (19:00 GMT) when the polling stations closed down, the voters’ turnout stood at 45%. 

The voters’ turnout, while still below the 50% mark, does point to a growing confidence in the role of parliament and democracy in charting the nation’s course. 

Prior to the elections, international media, and consequently also Moroccan media, were swamped by reports generated by Western liberal NGOs and Western governments that support them about the growing popularity of the self-anointed “February 20 Movement” in context of “Arab Spring”. The West effectively supported the Movement’s call to boycott the elections because they urge the transformation of the King into a symbolic titular head of state with less power than the Queen of England. These Western-origin reporting created the great anticipation for a low voters’ turnout that would also constitute a protest against the constitutional reforms process in its entirety.

While, as discussed below, apprehension about a low turnout did exit - the identification of the “February 20 Movement” and its purported message as the cause is erroneous. 

The quintessence of the Intifada’s that spread throughout the Arab World - a process commonly known as “the Arab Spring” - has been grassroots rejection of their failed modern states and regimes in favor of restoring traditional Islamist-dominated alternate forms of governance.  In this context, Morocco is the exception that proves the rule. 

Morocco has been ruled by the Alaouite Dynasty since the mid-17th century. Being a direct descendant of both Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali, the King of Morocco has unassailable legitimacy under the most traditionalist and Islamic terms. As is the case in all Western democracies, free and fair parliamentary and local and regional elections give the public venues to express their political opinions and affect both national and local issues. 

Hence, the vast majority of Moroccans have no reason to take to the streets. Moreover, the original organizing committee of the “February 20 Movement” withdrew their participation from the demonstrations once the extreme political character of some of the participating entities became clear. Simply put, Morocco has a combination of a traditionally-legitimate form of government with individual and political freedoms enabling all citizens to express their regional and localized traditions. There is no grassroots interest in launching an Intifada in Morocco. Indeed, the ongoing incitement of Al-Jazeera and other pan-Arab media could only bring minuscule crowds to the streets. 

The ratification of the New Constitution in the July 1, 2011, referendum by an overwhelming majority of 98.49% of the voters with a voters’ turnout of 72.65% clearly demonstrated the extent of genuine grassroots support for the Monarchy and the constitutional reforms process.  

Where there lingers a problem is the inherent mistrust of the economically weak segments of society in the ability, and according to some even willingness, of any elected government to resolve their plight, reverse the growing unemployment in their ranks, and overall improve their standard of living and prospects of advancement. The issue at hand, therefore, is not faith in the King and the reform process he has unleashed - but doubts whether an elected government be capable of implementing these policies and reforms. Indeed, in contrast, in the better educated and more affluent neighborhoods voters’ turnout was impressive and early - a reflection of the elite’s firm belief in, and support for, the King and the constitutional reforms.  

In the final phases of the elections campaign the leading political parties and blocs in Morocco focused on convincing the grassroots of their ability to implement these reforms - albeit in profoundly different ways. The public was urged to vote in order to demonstrate confidence in the constitutional reforms and then select who will implement them and how.

The voters’ turnout of 45% in Morocco yesterday clearly demonstrates that significant segments of the most skeptical elements of society are somewhat inclined to give the political parties a chance - perhaps a benefit of the doubt - to implement the King’s constitutional reforms which the public at large already overwhelmingly endorsed. 

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