By Siham Ali
The representation of women and youth in Morocco’s next parliament will increase three-fold, the interior ministry and political parties recently agreed.
Sixty seats have been reserved for women and thirty for candidates under the age of forty, according to the bill passed by the Council of Ministers on Friday (September 9th).
The list system is such that parties make a list of candidates and voters choose from among those lists as opposed to electing each individual politician to office.
Candidates will be elected from party lists, and the election barrier has been lowered to 3% to allow smaller parties to be represented in parliament.
The decision, however, triggered a flurry of negative reactions from activists. Some see it as a violation of the principle of equal opportunity, while others say the bill does not go far enough.
Movement for Egalitarian Democracy co-ordinator Khadija Rebbah sees the proposed changes as an injustice to women. She intends to pressure parliament to redraft the bill.
The spirit of equality endorsed by the constitution has been ignored, according to Democratic League for Women’s Rights (LDDF) chief Fouzia Assouli. She called for a third of the seats to be reserved for women.
Her demand was an echo of an earlier call by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) for expanding the quota for women to one-third of the Chamber of Representatives seats.
Meanwhile, Abdelkader Kihel, Secretary-Geneal of the Istiqlal youth section, said that young people were hoping for a bolder change in their representation. He explained that 30 seats are far from enough since youth candidates have both the ambition and skill to contribute to anticipated changes.
He also emphasised the importance of youth participation given the current proliferation of youth movements.
It is not only the youth candidates and women who are asking for representation on the national lists. Moroccan expatriates called for greater participation in the law-making institution.
Political analyst Hamza Berdouani explained that the issue of the national lists has been one of the main points of disagreement between political parties. He said that an overhaul of the elected assemblies would not be brought about by administrative decisions, and political parties need a new vision and strategy to restore confidence in the politics. Including youth candidates in local lists is one way to achieve that goal, Berdouani added.