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Crunching Numbers In Morocco’s Elections – OpEd

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By Seyyed Mohiyeddin Sajedi

The results of the first parliamentary elections in Morocco after reforms were introduced into part of the constitution can be reviewed from several aspects.

Eyes are fixed on the victory of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) and most of the analyses speak of coming to power of the moderate Islamic parties in the country, Tunisia, and probably Egypt and predict the implementation of the Turkish model in these countries.

There are several other facts, which must be taken note of. These can be used for developing a general perception needed to outline the future of the Middle East and North Africa.

The first point about Morocco’s election is the participation of less than half of the country’s population. Based on the official statistics, 45.5 percent of the registered voters partook in the event. The other implication of these statistics is that more than half of the people of Morocco were not willing to vote. Motives are different. Some believe that the country’s political system is not trustworthy and that the constitutional reforms cannot change the internal policies for the better.

Can the figure be compared to 95.5, which was the percentage of the country’s population voting in favor of the constitutional reforms? How is it conceivable that nearly the entirety of a country’s populace welcome the new constitution, but less than half of them participate in the first so-called democratic elections that follow?

The February 20 Movement and the youths in Morocco have demanded the implementation of radical changes in the country. They have also objected to the elections as the recent reforms have helped the monarch monopolize the power again.

Although under the new constitution, the king will hand over some of his powers to the parliament and the prime minister, his rights to dissolve the legislature, dismiss the prime minister, and sack the government are reserved.

The people, including the youths, has boycotted the election — a move begging the question “why did they do so?”

As soon as the results of the legal referendum were announced, the Moroccan youths warned about electoral fraud and cautioned that the royal court could have interfered in the manner the polls were conducted and its returns.

The parties, which participated in the parliamentary elections, have accepted the continued rule of the monarchical system.

Another point regarding the results is that the PJD has won 107 seats, but that is just one fourth of the 395-seat legislature. The party expects the monarch to appoint one of its members prime minister. What is referred to as the moderate Islam wave in Morocco has no choice but to ally itself with the other parties, which formerly had a share in the power as well as the political and economic corruption thanks to the previous constitution.

According to an announcement issued by Morocco’s Interior Ministry, the laical front, which comprises the three parties of Istiqlal, Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and Progress and Socialism, won 117 seats.

In Tunisia, the turnout for the parliamentary elections stood at about 90%.

This was owed to the historic revolution in the country that motivated the people. While in Morocco, the age-old political system has witnessed few changes.

However, the moderate al-Nahda party in Tunisia was able to win only 44% of the seats and needs to unite with other parties in order to be able to appoint the prime minister, the president (both interim), and the parliament speaker.

Analysts paint the same prospects for the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

It should not escape notice that the Yemeni Al-Islah Party (the Muslim Brotherhood) is a signatory to the Riyadh agreement meant to enable power transition in Yemen. The deal evenly splits up the members of the future government with the ruling General People’s Congress party. The faction as well as most of the other political parties, which have inked the agreement, were partners to power during Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tenure too.

Do these Islamic parties, which are the Muslim Brotherhood’s representatives in their respective countries, use a common tactic and are not after winning the parliamentary majority? Cooperation with other parties during the period of power transfer is the best way to create unity. The people of these countries expect the new parliaments and governments to solve their economical problems. Considering the current conditions, this is an overwhelming task.

We can say that the results of the elections in Morocco, Tunisia, and also Al-Islah’s role in Yemen or their brothers’ influence in Egypt show the real size of these political forces in the countries’ communities.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in other countries were the main force at a time, when absolutist Arab establishments would not allow elections and ambiguity regarding the social base of these parties would always introduce them as the representatives of the majority of the people.

This is visible in the Yemeni youths’ objection to the Riyadh agreement or the Egyptians’ protest against the cooperation of the Muslim Brotherhood with the ruling military council.

If the brotherhood is not the party of the overwhelming majority of the people in the Arab countries, then dealing with the same kind of factions in Syria and Jordan would be easier for the US and the West. Fear of the dominance of the Islamists is turning into willingness for cooperation with the parties that cannot determine the fate of their countries on their own.

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