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The Legislative Elections in Morocco: A Turnaround in Fortunes

On September 8, Moroccan voters headed to the polls to choose a new parliament. This article explains why these elections were so important, what challenges the new government will have to face, and what we are doing to address some of these challenges.

The September election represented a major shift in Morocco’s political landscape. The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), the largest party in power since 2011, suffered a severe defeat, losing 90% of its seats – going from 135 seats to 13. The National Rally of Independents (RNI), a liberal political party led by businessman and agriculture minister Akhannouch, emerged as the clear winner with 102 seats out of 395, followed by Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) with 87 seats and the conservative Istiqlal party with 81 seats.

Despite the difficult circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a high turnout – 50,35 % of  registered voters compared to 43 per cent in 2016. This increase can be attributed to the decision to hold legislative, regional and local elections on the same day in an effort to boost participation. Furthermore, a newly introduced voting system changed the way seats are allocated. The number of seats in the House of Representatives is now calculated on the basis of the number of registered voters – whether they have voted or not – rather than the number of votes obtained. This new method of calculation, used in no other country in the world, should make it harder for large parties to gain many seats, to the benefit of the small ones.

While the Moroccan people powerfully shook the political landscape with their ballots, Morocco is a constitutional monarchy in which the palace still holds broad powers. The 2011 constitution devolved many of the monarch’s powers to the parliament and the government, but the King retains the power to nominate the prime minister from the party that wins the majority of seats in parliament and appoints key ministries. Accordingly, on September 10, the King, Mohammad VI, granted the leader of the NRI, Aziz Akhannouch, the mandate to form a new executive for a five-year term.

A new window of opportunity for civil society 

The new government’s success will depend on their ability to tackle some of the country’s persistent ills. Among other serious structural challenges – including youth unemployment and the multifaceted consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic – corruption still represents a central issue. The country’s corruption not only has a direct negative impact on its citizens, but it is also a major obstacle to economic development and public services’ efficiency. According to the Trust Index conducted by the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, about 66% of Moroccan citizens believe that the government’s efforts in combating corruption are ineffective.

The Legislative Elections in Morocco - A Turnaround in Fortunes

The new political landscape and the upcoming “new generation of reforms and projects” promoted by an ambitious new development model announced in late May this year, may represent a new window of opportunity for civil society to strengthen its key role in transparency and anti-corruption policies. The Information & Integrity Project, led by EPD in cooperation with Impact for Development (IFD) and Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), will support civil society in this effort by assessing, through an inclusive and participatory analysis process, the effectiveness of transparency policies to identify challenges and gaps. The project will also advance civil society’s anti-corruption efforts by providing digital tools to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these policies in collaboration with public authorities and independent institutions. In this framework, the INSPIRED policy dialogue method, developed by EPD, from 2022 will open up spaces for dynamic discussions between civil society actors and newly elected public authorities to provide a refreshing boost to the existing community working in the area of transparency and facilitate exchanges between like-minded actors.

Photos taken in Rabat during the preparatory workshop on INSPIRED organised by EPD in the framework of the official launch of the Information and Integrity Project in Morocco.

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