by Compiled from Wire Services
Oct 08, 2016 12:00 am
Moroccans went to the polls on Friday to elect a new parliament, five years after Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Development Party (JDP) took office following Arab Spring-inspired protests that toppled regimes across the region. The election is also considered as a test for democracy for the country.
The elections saw strong participation by JDP, which won a majority in Moroccan municipal polls in September of last year. But the real power will remain in the hands of King Mohammed VI, the scion of a monarchy that has ruled the North African country for 350 years. Under the 2011 constitution, the king appoints a prime minister from the biggest party in parliament once the election results have been announced.
For daily newspaper L'Economiste, the vote represents "the first big democratic test of post-Arab Spring" Morocco, while the Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum saw it as "The Friday of the verdict."
Some 15.7 million Moroccans were registered to vote in Friday's election, which saw 30 political parties vie for seats in Morocco's 395-seat legislative assembly. Early turnout was low at polling stations in the capital but many people said they waited until after the main weekly Muslim prayers at midday to go and cast their vote. "I came to carry out my duty as a citizen. Our Morocco needs a healthy democracy," said Meriem, a woman in her 40s, after voting at a polling station set up inside King Hassan II high school in central Rabat. "It is good for our country. People must participate," said Mohammed, a retiree who turned up smartly dressed.
Some 7,000 candidates took part in Friday's election, which was Morocco's 10th legislative poll since the country won independence from France in 1956.
Moroccan elections in 2011, which coincided with that year's spate of "Arab Spring" uprisings, saw voter turnout of 45 percent, while polls held in 2007 saw a 37-percent turnout rate, the lowest ever in the country's history.
To make life easier for the illiterate, who make up a third of Morocco's population, the 30 parties in contention were marked on ballot papers with symbols such as a tractor or camel.
The PJD came to power in 2011, months after massive street protests prompted concessions from the monarchy. A new constitution transferred some of the king's powers to parliament, at a time when autocratic regimes were falling in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's PJD heads a coalition including communists, liberals and conservatives. The party stated a second term would allow it to press ahead with its economic and social reforms.