Moroccans vote this Wednesday in legislative and local elections that will decide the future of the Islamist PJD party, in power for a decade. In the middle of the day, the participation rate was 12% nationwide, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.
This is two percentage points more than in the legislative elections of 2016, but it is the first time that the close to 18 million voters they elect their 395 deputies and more than 31,000 communal and regional governors.
“Since this morning, the adherence of citizens is remarkable, it is perhaps proof that the participation rate will be respectable and that is very important,” said the head of government, Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the secretary of the PJD (Justice and Development Party).
For the newspaper ‘L’Economiste’ the participation rate is “the real key to the elections” this Wednesday. In the 2016 legislative elections, participation was 43%. Polling stations opened at 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT) and will close at 19:00 hours (18:00 GMT). The first estimates will arrive at night.
The head of government leaves the party that leads the legislative elections. It is named for the King Mohamed VI and forms an executive for a five-year term.
But, in this kingdom of 36 million inhabitants, the big decisions in strategic sectors such as agriculture, energy or industry come from the monarch’s initiatives.
The PJD (moderate Islamist) hopes to get a third term at the head of the government. The formation won a historic electoral victory after the protests of the ‘Movement of February 20’ – Moroccan version of the Arab Spring of 2011 – which demanded an end to “corruption and despotism.”
Apathetic electoral campaign
For two weeks, the electoral campaign, marked by the absence of large rallies due to the pandemic, was quite apathetic. But in recent days the tone has risen between the PJD and its liberal rival, the National Union of Independents (RNI), the two favorites.
Other formations that stand out, according to local media, are the Liberals Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) and the Istiqlal Party (center-right), both in opposition.
During the campaign, the PJD denounced the “massive” use of money to buy candidates and votes, but without naming names. Instead, the PAM leader, Abdellatif Ouahbi, directly accused the RNI, which denied the facts.
New calculation to distribute seats
With these elections, it will be the first time, since the first elections were held in Morocco in 1960, that the distribution of seats will be calculated from the number of registered voters and not according to the voters.
This new calculation will harm the big parties and benefit the small formations. But only the PJD opposed the reform. If it obtained the same result as in 2016, the Islamist party would achieve, according to estimates, between 80 and 85 seats, compared to 125 at the time. If he wins again, this would complicate the formation of a new government coalition.
The electoral campaign has been characterized by a lack of clear positioning of the parties on key societal issues. “We want politicians with a clear vision and not people who manage things on a day-to-day basis,” he told AFP. Abdeljalil Skaiti, 43, in Rabat.
Whatever the outcome of the elections, all political parties will have to adopt a charter that provides for a “new generation of reforms and projects,” as Mohamed VI recently indicated in a speech.