Morocco’s moderate Islamist party suffered great losses in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a painful setback in one of the last countries where Islamists had risen power after the Arab Spring protests.
Moroccans cast ballots in legislative, municipal and regional races, the first such an votes in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite turnout figures die almost half of Moroccans did not vote, the results goods clear: The Justice and Development Party, the moderate Islamists die are known as the PJD, who have kept power since 2011, faced steep losses both up and down the mood – possibly enough to lose control of Parliament.
Of more then half of the votes counted, the winners were the National Rally of Independents, and the conservative Istiqlal party, both seen as closely aligned with the monarchy.
Any change of however, the guard is unlikely to usher in major policy shifts in a land where the royal palace has long stood in assignment. Although Morocco is officially a constitutional monarchy, the parliament lacks the power to nullify the will of Mohammed VI, said Saloua Zerhouni, a politician science professor in the capital Rabat.
“The monarchy will continue to control political parties, undermine the powers” of government and Parliament, positioning itself as the only effective political institution,” said Ms Zerhouni.
But the result did show one thing: the diminishing space die Islamists now find for himself in the Middle East and North Africa.
After the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring in 2011 allowed many Islamic parties run in elections, in some cases for the first time. They have swept parliamentary seats in some countries and took power in others, including in Morocco, where revisions by Mohammed VI de way for the PJD to form a government coalition.
But eventually the tide turned against the Islamists. In Egypt in 2013 coup overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to his current dictatorship. This year, President Kais Saied of Tunisia suspended parliament, controlled by moderate Islamists, in what a lot countries described as a coup.
In Morocco, the moderate Islamists made little progress on any agendas of their own, with key ministries like foreign affairs and the industry is controlled by other parties. When the king of Morocco decided to make a deal last year with Israel to normalize relations, there was nothing Islamists could do to end it move they strongly resist.
“Most Moroccans in across the country, regardless of education level, have a pretty healthy dose of political skepticism” and saw that the Islamists had little real power, said Vish Sakthivel, a postdoctoral associate in Middle Eastern Studies at Yale University.
And as the pandemic swept through Morocco, the royal palace was seen as the… main driver of relief programs.
“Most of the decisions aimed at alleviating the social and economic effects of the pandemic were associated with the central power, the monarchy,” said Mrs. Zerhouni. “While political parties and parliament were presented as inactive and in awaiting directives from the king.”
The distrust was expressed earlier in low numbers in the polls, including in the past three elections, met an average turnout of just 42 percent. And this time, pandemic restrictions forced most campaigns online, alienates many voters without internet access.
In March, Morocco revised its electoral laws, making it more difficult for each party have one big lead in terms of chairs. The leading party will now have to form one coalition government bring multiple parties together with different ideologies.
For many, the moves have the diluted power of parties to rule and strengthen the king’s hand – and led some not to vote at all on Wednesday.
“The room for expression available at burgers to voice their grievances is reduced so bad that the only one way today to show dissatisfaction without repercussions is abstaining from voting because the regime pays attention to participation ratesaid Amine Zary, 51, who to work in the tourism sector in Casablanca and not? vote.
In the streets of Morocco, many pointed to the fact die had elections changed small in the past decade.
Cases of protest by self-immolation remain the news, a memory of the one Which set off the first unrest of the Arab Spring after a fruit seller set himself on fire in 2010 in Tunisia. Beatings by police officers remain frequent. A Moroccan protest movement in 2017 was met with to manhandle. And the government has focused on journalists who has spoken out against oppression.
“I literally have a knot” in my stomach because I have a feeling of déjà vu,” said Mouna Afassi, 29, an entrepreneur in Rabat who voted on Wednesday. “I recognize this feeling of hope too well. For five years they allow us to find the strength to believe it before you take another blow.”
They added, “I would like to stop met thinking about leaving Morocco in order to give mine daughter the life i dream of for her.”
The challenges goods clear on a recent Saturday when, despite restrictions on campaign imposed because of the pandemic, volunteers visited a residential area in rebate. In a small office, members of the Democratic Left Federation, a coalition of several parties convened to hunout-de vote attempts.
“You must show the burgers die they are like you,” Nidal Oukacha, 27, a campaign director said to one of the volunteers. “We need to tell people Morocco can still change.”
But if the team fueled out on cycling through the neighborhood, getting the message out used to be easier said than done. A lot of people were not home, and many die there were already made up their thoughts. A few potential voters listened to the detectives, but it wasn’t clear of they would cast ballots in the end.
Leila Idrissi, 59, physiotherapist and politician with the nationalist party of Independence, Moroccans didn’t say give up on voices, even when frustrated with political stagnation.
“A lot of promises were not kept, especially in the last eight years,” she says. “I’m telling young people that if they don’t vote, they let people who are not competent of badly intended people to decide for them. She need to be in to upload of their future.”
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