Morocco: Why do I boycott?

Moroccan opposition activists are stepping up calls for a boycott of today’s parliamentary election, saying it can only produce a corrupt assembly unwilling to implement the radical reforms they believe the country needs.
Hisham Almiraat
25 November 2011

On November 25, 2011, Moroccans will vote in their first parliamentary election since a referendum approved a series of constitutional amendments. The amendments, introduced by the king, are intended to reduce the monarch’s prerogatives in favour of an elected legislative body. However, for myself and a number of Moroccan democrats, there exist many reasons why we choose to respond to the call of the February 20 movement and why we will boycott the upcoming election.

First, the boycott is justified by the fact that the elections will lead to a parliament that is not representative to the people. The proportional voting list was introduced in 2002 by the Ministry of Interior and approved by a majority of parliament that was loyal to the monarchy. The constitutional reform of July did not make any changes to this. The proportional voting list will create a fragmented and factionalised parliament. Under these conditions, no political party will be able to elect a prime minister with the sufficient power-bloc and flexibility to form a strong and coherent body. The monarchy will thus emerge strengthened, positioning itself as the safe and durable alternative. The palace will take the opportunity to pick and choose favorites from within the political class, and it will distribute favours and renew allegiances in each election cycle.

A second reason for our boycott is electoral districts. The current districts were engineered by the late Driss Basri, former Interior Minister and strongman for Hassan II. Its successful aim was to weaken any major opposition in favour of smaller parties who were loyal to the royal palace. The result is the proliferation of small parties (or "hizbicules" as we like to call them in Morocco) and a parliament that is naturally impotent.

Beyond these two reasons, there is a more fundamental argument which lies at the core of why many democrats will choose to boycott the parliamentary elections of November 25. Despite what the Moroccan authorities want us to believe, the new constitution does not bring about real progress. It fails to adequately devolve the executive and legislative powers of the king in favour of an elected assembly. The next cabinet will also be a subservient body, as it will only be able to approve of policies that will survive the king's veto. This is problematic when one considers the nature of the Moroccan regime and how its interests lie in protecting the status quo; a status quo which allows  the monarchy to enrich itself and preserve its privileges.

But perhaps the most vital reason to boycott is to join the wave of freedom that is sweeping the region. To prove to the world that Moroccans are not worth less than their neighbouring Tunisians. Every week, brave young Moroccan democrats take to the streets to protest peacefully: they too want to enjoy a real democracy, complete ... now. They have grown weary of the flowery rhetoric which promises transition, these words have been uttered on-and-off since the mid-90s. They do not care for partially granted reforms. They sense that these 'untouchables' in power are not worried. They understand that the only way to make the system more fair and just is to force it to change.

The February 20 movement resolutely chose the path of nonviolence. The regime does not seem to understand that times have changed and that the people will no longer settle for a semblance of reform.

What I fear is that if the regime persists in creating roadblocks to actual progress, if it continues to manoeuvre to gain a little more time, then the country is headed for collision. Sooner or later people will realize that the promises of reform are going nowhere. It may be that it is the broken promises which will radicalize the Moroccan people. In the absence of a real separation of powers and accountability, Morocco may face a major political crisis.

The call of the February 20 movement is the best chance that the monarchy has to redeem itself in the eyes of the people, and the best chance to avoid an unstable future. It's still not too late for the king to seize this opportunity.

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